I was in a rush. With 20 minutes to get home before an appointment, I’d stopped at the grocers to pick up milk for my coffee. In line ahead of me, an old lady was unloading a cart with a few food items, a disaster-proof supply of toilet paper, and many boxes of children’s gifts.
I considered going around her and leaving cash for the checkout person. I do that occasionally at coffee shops when the person ahead of me is ordering something frou-frou and I can self-serve regular brew. But that would’ve flummoxed the checker. Besides I had no cash.
So, I managed a smile and indulged my favorite pastime.
“For the grandkids,” I said, nodding at the cart.
“Not these,” she said, without looking up. “The clinic where I work always keeps gifts around and we’re running low.”
Which one, I asked, and she named the children’s hospital where you’d take your child if they were scary sick because you knew that whether affluent or indigent, your child would be treated first, expertly and compassionately, and the who-pays-what stuff would be sorted out later.
“What do you do there?” I asked, thinking docent but fortunately not out loud because she paused and smiled at me as if she’d diagnosed my rudeness from the start.
“Pediatrician,” she said. “Been there 40 years.”
The checker totaled the bill and handed her the register slip. “Did I get the 10 percent discount?” she asked. The checker nodded.
“Oh, I forgot. It’s senior day,” I said as she pushed her cart away, and I took the discount on my milk. Virtue should be its own reward, but immediate, positive reinforcement benefits those of us who still need work.
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