“The Express Lane”
By Cory Dudley
Wendell Glazer watched the dog as it strolled across his lawn then noticed it had watered one of the tires on his new Lexus, his jaws tightened.“I no sooner have the darn thing washed and it either rains or some stray lift’s its leg on it.”
“Don’t forget to go grocery shopping Wendell; do you have the list I gave you?”
He didn’t replay but just nodded and headed out to the car; next stop was the car dealership.
“Thirty-thousand miles already Mr. Glazer, you and the wife must be hitting the road a lot, fortunately this unit gets great gas mileage.
“That is why I bought it” he said gruffly.
“I’ll get one of our employee’s to give you a ride home this is going to take about and hour and a half.”
“That will not be necessary, I’ll just wait but don’t be sending over any of your shark salesman to try and sell me another car, DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”
“Yes sir, rest assured you will not be bothered, but are you sure you want to wait?”
Wendell just glared at him…
The service Rep got into the car and drove it to the shop.
Wendell looked at his watched once again, it was coming up on two hours and he felt he had waited long enough.
“Well, you said about an hour and a half, I have things to get done, is there a problem?”
“I’ll go back to the shop and see how things are back there.”
Soon his Lexus came pulling up and he noticed it was dripping water.
“Hey, what’s wrong here, there seems to be a leak, what did that darn mechanic do to it?”
“No problem Mr. Glazer, we just washed your car, its part of our service, I hope you don’t mind.”
Wendell paid the $425.00 bill all the while glaring at the young woman behind the counter as if she was personally taking the money out of his pocket.
“Four-hundred and twenty-five dollars and you had the car for less then two hours, that is terrible. I would think you might give us an idea as to the cost of this service before you take our keys.”
“I just take in the payments sir, would you like me to call the manager?”
“A lot of good that would do.”
She handed him the key and wished him a nice day.
Wendell put the key in the ignition and adjusted the seat.
“Darn thing smells like a pine forest and expensive one at that, he pulled out of the dealership in a bad mood.
He hit the speed dial on his cell phone; soon his broker was giving him the latest results on one of his stocks that had started dropping yesterday. He had made over $23,000.00 on it already but it was now dropping and dropping fast.
“Sell the damn stuff, right now.”
“I was just going to call you and advise doing just that. I’ve got another stock you might be interested in; I’ll have more information on it by tomorrow if you are interested? I’m in the process of selling off this stock as we speak, I’ll confirm its sale to you via email this afternoon. Please tell your wife I said hello and we are looking forward to seeing you at the Racquet Club dinner tomorrow evening.” Wendell pulled his car into the far corner of the Mall parking lot taking up almost three spaces. This was his way to try and save a few door bangs on his new car. He walked past two shopping carts that had wandered out into the drive way and would surely block traffic. A woman honked her horn and made a slight motion that was trying to tell Wendell it would be nice to move the carts so she could get by. “I don’t get paid to move carts” he told her as he walked by her window. The woman shook her head, got out of the car very slowly and moved the carts then said making sure Wendell heard, “Thanks for the help.”
He liked the smell of the grocery store; the entrance he used was near the bakery. He would walk over to the counter and deeply inhale the smell of the fresh bread; he never bought any because it was more expensive then wrapped bread. The smell reminded him of his mother’s kitchen as she baked bread; a light smile appeared on his face replacing the normal scowl.
Wendell had his usual route in the store, bakery, produce, meat then staples. He walked over to get his cart, it was stuck and it refused to come out. He tugged harder, it was not moving. He moved over to another line of carts and this one slipped right out, he smiled. As he started off to the produce department he didn’t get very far, this cart had a jammed front wheel. His jaws began to tighten, a flush came over his face, the smile had gone and it had been replaced with the usual scowl. He left the cart and walked over to get another one, this one seemed to be Ok. As he was leaving the area a woman was putting her purse in the cart with the bad wheel, “She can find out for herself that it’s broken” he made his way toward the produce department.
His cart was very organized, neat in fact. Nothing got squashed and he knew the price of everything in the cart. This shopping venture was over in twenty minutes so he headed toward the checkout stand. Wendell was well known in the store, the common word for him was “Mr. Organized” among the employees as well as the manager. Everyone knew what was going to be said once he was checking out,
“Please check and bag these items in the order I send them through, do you understand, I don’t want anything broken.” His wife’s list was rather short today. Wendell didn’t really care to do the grocery shopping; “Woman’s work” as he called it, but an auto accident ten years ago had left his wife with a very bad back.
He was surprised to see that only two checkout stands were open aside from the “Express Lane” which only had one person waiting in line. He glanced into his cart doing a quick inventory, sixteen was the number. “10 items or less” the sign read, he had hoped it might read sixteen. He entertained waiting for the woman to leave then ask the clerk if she would check him out, he though better and got into another line.
He pulled in behind an older fellow who had less then ten items according to his count. Hoping to check out sooner he said to the fellow, “Excuse me, I see you have less then ten items that makes you eligible to go over to the Express Lane, are you aware of that, you could get out of here sooner?”
The man smiled, glanced into his cart and point to each item as he counted, “Say, you are right, I’ve only got eight items, thank you for the suggestion. Say, that is a beautiful tweed sports jacket you are wearing, bet you bought it back East, right?”
“In fact I did, I’ve had it for over fifteen years, and it wears like iron.”
“Swanson chicken pot pies don’t seem to go with a jacket like that if you don’t mind my saying so.”
“Cats, my wife feeds our darn cats the stuff, garbage as far as I’m concerned.”
The lines were moving slowly, a bagger needed to check the price on an unmarked item. Wendell was getting impatient especially since there was no one waiting in line at the Express lane. He wanted to get home and back into his woodwork so he could finish the bookshelf for his computer room.
The woman behind him gently pushed her carts into Wendell, he turned with a scowl, “Are you in a rush” he commented.
“I’m sorry, please forgive me I wasn’t paying attention.”
“That’s obvious” Wendell said. She pulled her cart back, Wendell felt better, she had been in his “space” and he didn’t like that one bit.
“Why the heck can’t you people do your shopping when I’m not here” he wanted to shout.
In a low mutter, but loud enough to be heard by all in line he said, “Lets get this line moving, I’ve got things to get done.”
“Hello Mr. Glazer, it’s nice having you with us today, did you find everything on your wife’s list?”
“Yes I did, but the lines are terrible today, a snails pace, what seems to be the problem, new clerks?”
“No sir, it’s just a special time here in the store, I’ll explain later.”
“Who are you; I don’t recall seeing you here before, new management?”
“Well not exactly, let me try and explain.”
He motioned to the woman in the next checkout stand, she came over.
“Mr. Glazer, I’d like you to meet Alma Wilkins.”
The look on Wendell’s face was, “What’s this all about, I just want out of here.”
She flashed a big smile then put out her hand, he reluctantly took it.
“Alma as you can see has a weight problem, she is doing her last shopping today, well at least for a month or so.”
“What does that have to do with my checking out” spat Wendell.
“She has decided to enter a weight loss clinic, isn’t that a courageous thing for her to do?”
Wendell just stared at her.
“Thank you Alma for coming over and good luck, we will all be cheering for you.”
Wendell watched her return to the line, she looked back and smiled.
“What the hell was that all about” he thought.
“What a nice woman, I think she will make it this time, in fact Wendell I know she will.”
He looked over Wendell’s shoulder, “I see you and Wendell have exchanged a few words George, let me formally introduce you to each other.”
“Ya, I told him I really like his tweed jacket but he didn’t seem to be in the market for any idle chatter.”
George reached over his cart and extended his hand, reluctantly Wendell took it and they shook hands.
“George was diagnosed with prostate cancer four months ago, it’s inoperable. How long did they give you to live George?”
“Well the doctor said about five months on the outside, I can feel the end nearing, and everything seems to be an effort these days, just shopping wears me out.”
George looked directly into Wendell’s eyes, “You see Wendell that is why I have no desire to get into the Express lane, shopping is more of a social outing considering I live alone, I have no family.”
Wendell looked at him with a bit more concern, “I’m very sorry to hear that George, it is George, isn’t it?”
“Ya, I’m George on the short list. I gave up trying to think I might be special and lick this monster but it’s a losing battle. I do my best to get the most out of everyday, your jacket in fact made my day because many years ago I had one just like it. It was a pleasure meeting you Wendell, a real pleasure.”
He slowly turned moving his cart toward the head of the line.
Wendell could not help but notice the soft smile on this mans face, it was a peaceful simple smile, in fact it baffled Wendell.
“Liz, can you come over here I’ve got someone I want you to meet.” The checker walked out from behind the stand and came over.
“Wendell, this is Liz; her husband left her for another woman two weeks ago, isn’t that sad?”
“It’s going to be very difficult for me and the kids for a while, but we will make it, we surely will. The kids are too young for me to fully explain why their daddy is no longer in the house but the day will come when I can explain it to them.” She walked back to the stand and began checking groceries with a smile and “How are you today.”
That is not the worst of it Wendell, business is slow and she is a new employee, she is getting laid off next Friday.
“Who are you, what are you doing here?”
“Later Wendell, in a few minutes we can get to that.”
“See that little old lady over there, the one with the blue hair and the tattered shopping bag; she lost her husband two weeks ago. They had been married for over sixty years, can you imagine that kind of loss, sixty years. These days she just wanders around the store as if looking for her husband. She will be leaving us soon, no Wendell, not the store; her time has come to join her husband.”
He looked at his watch. In about forty-eight hours it will happen but she will not mind, the loneliness is so painful it will be a welcomed parting.”
“Wendell, how are you enjoying your new Lexus, it’s a beauty isn’t it? I would have chosen a lighter blue myself, but as long as you are happy isn’t that all that matters, or is it? Your woodwork is really looking good, like you Oak is my favorite wood to work with.”
Wendell was feeling very uneasy, confused, and truly threatened.
“Wendell you are a very fortunate man, you have a loving wife and I might add a very patient wife. You have enough money to live a very comfortable life, no wants to speak of at this time. Say, that stock you bought was a winner; your decision to sell it today was wise. Another item Wendell, you are enjoying good health, in fact you are going to be around for some time to come.”
“Really, you know that for sure?”
“Wendell, I do know that for sure, in fact Wendell I know everything there is to know about you. Wendell as you have seen we are surrounded by people who have many problems. That woman in the parking lot and the carts in her way, you didn’t notice she had a handicapped sticker hanging from the mirror. We brush into these people everyday but few get our attention as we just seem to think about ourselves. Wendell I dropped in on you today to remind you of just that, slow down Wendell, as they say, “Smell the Roses” and take note of your surroundings. Now have a nice rest of your life Wendell, it’s been a real pleasure chatting with you, Oh, and it’s now your turn in line, good bye.”
Wendell was stunned, he just stood there until he heard, “Sir, it’s your turn in line, please keep the line moving.”
Wendell looked at the checker then noticed George leaving the store. George stopped, turned and waved to Wendell, without hesitation Wendell waved back, “It was nice meeting you George, very nice.”
Wendell backed his cart out of line, motioning to the fellow behind him to take his place. He slowly pushed his cart over to the bakery section and looking over the fresh bread ordered two loaves of French bread, one sweet roll and a cup of coffee.
He then sat at a table close to the entrance and for over an hour he greeted people with a friendly “Hello” as he sipped his coffee and ate his roll.
“Hello, isn’t it a beautiful morning, couldn’t ask for better weather.”
Wendell went grocery shopping and ended up with more then groceries in his cart. He had been given a lesson in humility, a lesson in patience and a lesson we can only learn from those less fortunate. It’s a lesson that once learned can bring a wealth of joy and happiness into ones life as well as those around us.
Avoid the “Express Lane”, say “Hello” to those you pass even if you don’t share the same fence always remembering we all share the same feelings…