I’ll Never Do That Again!

I was on one of my visits to Shop-to-Stop to buy some necessary items.  It became clear that this was not going to end well.  It all started very nicely.  As happens, I first bumped into Sharon in front of the organic apples, she had a few questions about school, then I met Estelle in aisle 3.  She had a couple of questions that I tried to answer while we chatted in front of the canned corn.  They were pretty serious questions, so I can’t tell you about them.  Then I met Joe and we were able to settle a few concerns in the dairy aisle.  He said he called me for lunch and was still waiting—for two years.  I apologized and moved on.  A lady whose name I didn’t get wanted to show me how well she sang while in the frozen food aisle.  I encouraged her to join the choir.  Finally, I met Kathy in the meat section who taught me how to cook a roast.  I pretended not to understand and told her it would be a lot easier if I just bought the roast and she took it home to cook for me.  She didn’t go for it.

I always enjoy bumping into people in the store.  It reminds me of when Jesus would walk around town and meet his flock.  I don’t know how Jesus remembered all the names; I guess because He was God.  I’m embarrassed if I can’t remember every name, but the people are always very kind.  Everything was going just fine until I got to the check-out.

My good friend Steve called me to invite me to something or other and so I got distracted.  All the lines were long, but I found a nice short line and waited patiently.  That’s when I sensed hostility rolling in to surround me like a fog.  You know how you can just sense anger in the air? I put all my items on the conveyor belt and that’s when it happened—the check-out lady snapped! “Twelve items or less!” barked Mindy.  I froze.  “Twelve items or less—this line is only for twelve items or less,” she repeatedThe manager came over and told me I had too many items, as she pointed to the illuminated sign: “Twelve items or less!” the manager repeated.  “You have fifty items.”  Surely the cops were enroute.

What was I going to do?  Everyone behind me was furious. I said I would leave the line, but that would have been like making a U-turn in the Midtown Tunnel.  I was stuck.  The only thing I could do was beg for mercy, but no one in line was ready to forgive me.  I can’t say I blame them.  I felt like Jesus with the crowds yelling “Crucify Him, crucify Him.”  It was perfect Lenten penance.  Everyone in Shop-to-Stop was staring at me.  I wanted to crawl under the shopping cart.  So, what did I do?  I apologized and moved on, albeit quickly. I prayed no one on line was Catholic.

In all honesty I was caught unawares.  But I learned that, finding oneself in such a position, the only thing one can do is apologize sincerely, get up and continue on.  Let us not get stuck in the ruts of our mistakes but make a firm amendment to “make up for my sins, to do penance, and to amend my life.  Amen.” This is the heart of the Lenten message.

I will tell you that when I was leaving, Mindy asked how many bags I had.  In my desire to get out of there quickly I asked her what difference it made now.  She informed me each plastic bag would cost me 5¢.  I looked back at the people on line and thought it best not to argue.


– Fr. Gerard Gordon