I needed to make a quick stop at the grocery store while on the way to work Wednesday.
You know how it is sometimes — you go in for a quick item and find yourself three shopping carts deep in a line that appears longer with each “beep” of the automatic scanner.
And Wednesday was no exception.
I was fine — and surprisingly being pretty patient.
The lady in front of me had a shopping cart, but only appeared to have two or three items.
After a few minutes of waiting, she turned around and looked at me.
She looked around me, and saw I had one item.
“You can go ahead of me, it’s all right,” she said.
“Oh, no, you’re fine — you only have a couple things,” I told her.
She explained her order was a little complicated, and happily allowed me in front of her.
It certainly made for a nice day — that doesn’t happen too often in this day and age.
I was in line at a well-known sub shop in Tennessee a few months back waiting for my turn to place an order.
While I was waiting, an elderly couple came into the restaurant.
The pair looked directly at me, and we exchanged glances.
Then they meandered their way in front of me in line.
The woman turned to me with a snotty little grin that really ticked me off — but the employee at the restaurant made that potentially ugly encounter rather pleasant — at least with me.
When he returned to his station to take the next order, before the couple could say a word, he said, “I believe the next person in line was the tall guy in the glasses there — can I take your order?”
I smiled pretty big and went ahead and placed my order. The woman’s snotty little grin turned into a pucker — so much so the average passerby would have thought she sucked on a lemon.
That employee never skipped a beat — and at the register where a tip tray was located, I dropped in an especially nice pile of greenbacks.
To add a little extra to the story, I ate in the restaurant that evening, so the couple was the next party to place an order.
She started out by giving him down the road for being so rude to her and her husband — that he was sickly and surely that young man could have stood there longer and let us go ahead.
Without missing a beat and smiling the entire time, the employee said, “Well ma’am, I would have, but I try to treat all the customers who come in here how I want to be treated in a restaurant, and I sure wouldn’t want some old couple cutting in line in front of me.”
I stopped chewing — in fact, I think I choked a bit on some lettuce.
I started laughing right out loud — what other reaction could be expected?
The woman slung a dagger-filled look in my direction, and grabbed her husband’s arm to leave.
But I was in for one more surprise.
“You fool woman you need to shut up,” he yelled at her. “I’m hungry, you were wrong and we’re gonna eat here.”
That time I needed a napkin the laugh came so fast — it was almost like dinner theater. I wasn’t the only one paying attention to this bizarre exchange either — the audience grew, as the restaurant in question was inside a chain department store. The greeter at the door had to stifle a laugh and walk away from her post.
Of course, waiting in line is an unfortunate part of our everyday lives.
I was with the girls at a theme park in east Tennessee. At the time, they were 3 and 4 years old.
They wanted to ride this kiddie roller coaster, and in order to ride, they needed an adult with them. Of course, as shy as they are, they would have needed the adult anyway.
So here we were, waiting in line. It was hot, the line was long, and several of the kids in line were getting restless.
But to my surprise, the girls were virtually silent — they were looking around and taking in all the sights and sounds.
We had already been standing for an hour, and it looked like another 20-30 minutes before we’d get our turn.
And then, behind us, one of the restless kids “morphed” into the spawn of Satan.
He was probably about 8 or 9 years old — old enough to know better, but he’d already been really whiny and cranky.
Even the 4-year-old tugged on me to tell me a secret — “He’s a bad boy, isn’t he?” she asked.
“Yes he is,” I answered in a regular voice. “What would happen if you started acting like that?”
Of course, she answered they’d be in trouble.
But when that kid made his big change from annoying to bratty, it was almost frightening.
“I want to ride now,” he shouted — and landed a solid kick to his father’s shin.
“No, no, no,” the mother said. “It’s not nice to kick.”
And that’s when he violently spit in her face.
My mouth dropped — and the 3-year-old wanted picked up it scared her so bad.
But instead of any real punishment for such a vile act, she repeated her previous mantra — “no, no, no — it’s not nice to spit.”
I had heard enough.
“If you’re not going to do anything about your child’s behavior, at least have the decency to get out of line,” I said. “This behavior is scaring the kids.”
“You need to mind your own business,” the father snarled.
“I would,” I said. “Except your business has begun invading my business — especially when your son’s behavior scares my girls.”
While I had no verbal backup, I could tell by sounds and shuffling that my opinion was agreed with by many other people forced to stand in line with them.
They got out of the line — and a few minutes later a woman thanked me for saying something. Her son was scared, too.
So brace yourself when you find yourself stuck in a line — it could be a really pleasant time, or you could face a big bunch of crazy. Either way, it can be a good story to tell — later.
John Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org