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I’m pretty sure I just made the world a better place (and it only cost me $4).

I’m pretty sure I just made the world a better place (and it only cost me $4).

Every single day we have choices to make. Often, one choice influences the trajectory of the next one.

I’m not going to go into paragraphs of research and fanfare and lead you along to build up to the big fireworks show of how I saved humanity this morning. I’m just going to tell you what happened and you can judge for yourself.

I clenched my hands together as the drill or spinning metal object “cleaned” my teeth. After what was probably only a few short minutes but seemed like a good hour, I was free to go.

I went to the supermarket to get dinner for tonight. I was on my bike so I had limited space, which is probably a good thing.

There was only one register open and second in line was a woman with a cart filled with so many groceries it was like one of those jars of jelly beans where you win a prize if you’re closest to the number. I’d say around 200.

Another checker was organizing her workstation but it wasn’t clear if she was going to open yet and there were now at least three people behind me. I had to make an executive decision and I chose to stay.

The woman in front of me began loading her groceries onto the conveyor belt. Some grocery stores have very small conveyor belts where you can only fit a small amount of items. This was more like the run up to the long jump in that it was so long I didn’t hesitate to start putting my own groceries on the belt too.

Although I am proud of my mathematical background and ability to forecast statistical events with surprising accuracy, what happened next I had not expected.

Although I had only taken maybe 1/4 of the conveyor belt for all of my groceries, the woman had filled up the other three quarters of the belt and still had at least 50 items in her cart.

I have to admit I didn’t think about grocery store conveyor belt logistics quite yet this early in the day but I was very soon to be schooled in FIFO (or First In First Out) logistics strategies.

Before I realized that her area was completely full, she let me know what she was really thinking.

“That’s not really going to work out, is it?” she asked, but of course the question was rhetorical.

I’m translating from the Dutch and I’m not sure my translation carries the negativity, threat, and anger that the woman was carrying in her question to me but now that I’ve mentioned how it came across, I think you get the feeling.

In case you’re keeping score, the next moment is only part of saving the world. The good part is still to come.

I had to make a split-second decision as to where this discussion was going to go. It is not in my nature to be confrontational, negative, or even allow people to get confrontational or negative towards me. Thankfully, my nature sprouted up like a spring flower in a timelapse video.

“No, that’s not going to work out it all,” I said as I looked at her and gave her my best Hollywood smile. I immediately began moving my groceries from the front of my little area and stacking them in the back of my area to give her more space.

She stacked her groceries and boxes and cans as best she could without another word. I continued to stack and give her more space as the conveyor belt moved in her cart was still not yet empty.

I like to think I live a charmed life.

I like to think that, but of course it’s not always the case. But still, I had something, some sparkle, some glitter, some magic that I had in excess this morning at the grocery, even after the dentist assaulted me with his weapons and the woman with the red hair basically downgraded my status from logistical superhero to half-awake guy buying groceries.

I believe that each of us has an influence on those around us, especially those in our immediate vicinity.

For reasons that I somehow can’t claim as my own, I picked up a bouquet of flowers, pink tulips, that were in bins of water at the end of the cashier area. I put them at the very front of my groceries that were at this time almost ready to be checked as the woman was paying her bill and putting the last of her groceries back into the same cart from which they came.

Regaining my crown as logistical superpower, I then took, with elegance and grace, the bouquet of flowers that were now paid for and as the woman started to push her overflowing cart out of the store, I slipped the bouquet into the corner of her shopping cart.

“I think you forgot these,” I said.

I could see her mind working and trying to figure out what was happening. Had she bought flowers and forgot them? Did the man behind her give her the flowers that she had bought, forgotten that she had bought, may be paid for, and put them in her cart?

Then her face changed. It might be a bit of a stretch but I would say the world changed if only in the slightest little bit at that moment.

Why would this man, whom I scolded for his lack of conveyor belt wisdom, whom I don’t know, whom I have never seen before, and probably will never see again, buy me flowers?

I don’t know what she thought and, frankly, I don’t want to know. All I want is for her day to take a turn for the better in an unexpected way from a stranger.

I'm pretty sure I just made the world a better place (and it only cost me $4).
I’m pretty sure I just made the world a better place (and it only cost me $4). [Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash]
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