I looked around and saw the self-check attendant cashier looking over at me. "Hi," she called again.
(This was the same girl, probably in her mid to late twenties, who a couple months ago was ripped up one side and down the other by an angry customer one day when all the self-service check-out stands seemed to be waging a war of the machines (see the 06/27/14 post ). All of us who were trying to check out had to wait our turns as the girl hurried from machine to machine to machine putting down the rebellion with her electronic zapper-gun. But there was one woman, a foreigner dressed in a long black hijab veil and dress who was obviously angry about the hold up and took it out most harshly on the poor young check-out attendant. After the mean lady left I talked to the girl and told her I was sorry about how that woman had treated her, that the woman was 'way out of line, and that I was going to tell the manger what had happened and how well she, the cashier, had handled the situation).
"Oh, hi," I called back to the girl, "how you doing?"
The girl left her post and walked over to me.
"How's your day going?" I asked her.
"Pretty good," she replied, "not too busy yet."
She stood by me for a few moments in silence while I rang up my groceries. I took a guess as to why she might have come over.
"Hey," I asked her, "Do you remember that day when that lady was being so mean to you?"
It was as if a floodgate had broken open. Even though I'd been there that day and had seen it all, she began pouring out to me the details of the incident, how all the machines were off, how she'd had to go around and re-set each one, how this lady had yelled at her, how afraid she was that she'd get into trouble, how relieved she was that she didn't. Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes a little teary.
I sympathized with her over the incident asked if that lady had ever come back to the store.
"I don't know," the girl said. "There are so many ladies who come in with veils on who look like her, I can't tell. Whenever I see one who looks like her I think, 'Oh, no'." She held a hand over her heart for a moment in a gesture of distress.
I reiterated what I'd said to her on the day of the event, reminding her how helpful she'd been that day, how friendly she always was to all the customers and how much we all appreciated her. I told her that back when it happened I'd wanted to follow the mean woman out of the store and tell her to go back and apologize to the young cashier she'd just been so rude to. But I was afraid to. I also thought the woman might be a little crazy.
"Good thing you didn't say anything to her," said the cashier, "who knows what she would have done?" Then she added, "I just wanted to thank you for saying something to me that day."
I told her don't mention it, and by then my groceries were all packed and I was ready to roll and she had to get back to her post so I told her to have a nice day and she wished me the same.
As I left the store I recalled an Arabic proverb I once read: "Wounds heal but words don't".
Let's hope that proverb is wrong.