This evening I decided to stop at Walmart.
I know. I should have my head examined. Here we are, with an ice storm warning set to begin tomorrow, and last for over 48 hours, and I picked Walmart of all places to shop at. The best part is, I didn’t truly need anything. There were, however, a few things I wanted to pick up, and I knew Walmart was the only place I could find them.
So, Turkey and Moose and I went to Walmart after catechesis. It was as you would expect. The parking lot was a nightmare, there were few carts to be found, the snack and soda aisles were pretty much wiped clean, and the only thing that saved the milk coolers from the same fate was the fact that they were actively being restocked. The aisles were all backed up with carts, and there were traffic jams everywhere.
And then we got to the checkout lines.
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen them that bad, not even at Christmas. There were plenty of lines open, but they were all long. Fortunately, the shoppers, at least in the line we ended up in, were pretty good-natured, and we even had a nice conversation with the gentleman in front of us as we waited.
This was all a bit too much for Moose, however. It was the end of a long day for him, after school and catechesis. And our stopping meant dinner was going to be late, and even though he was prepared for it ahead of time, that didn’t mean he was too happy about it. Plus, Walmart on a quiet day is bright and loud and overwhelming, to say nothing of Walmart before a St. Louis Weather French Toast Event. So he was acting a bit squirrely by the time it was our turn to put our items on the belt and pay.
He was trying his best to help with the bagging process, but it wasn’t really working. And I was trying to just get him to stand still, out-of-the-way, so the checker could do his job as efficiently as possible.
I guess he must have sensed my concern, because the cashier, who was a fairly young man, very deliberately made eye contact with me. And with more mercy than I’m used to hearing, he said, “It’s OK. I don’t mind at all. Really.”
I was stunned. There was something about his tone, and the way he looked at me, that made me wonder if he had personal experience with autism. Maybe a younger brother, or a friend. And I wish I had stopped to tell him how much his kindness meant to me, but I was still flustered, and still hoping that we weren’t holding things up for the people behind us, so I didn’t. But it one of those moments that I won’t forget. That night before the ice storm, when an unlikely person showed me some much-needed mercy.