I had stumbled back to truckdriving just before Christmas last year. The engine on my sv Ruth Ann was kaput and I needed to raise the funds to buy a replacement. I went back down to Florida to drive for a company I had driven for before. I knew the people, the system, and the schedule. I just didn’t get a good feeling from any of the trucking job ads I was reading near me in North Carolina.
In the first week back, I found myself in Albany, GA. There is a large Molson Coors Brewery there where I picked up a load but didn’t have enough hours left to drive any further. The Pilot truckstop in town had been a convenient stop for fuel and to use their scale, but I had rarely slept there. Across the road was a Walmart and I needed a wastebasket. Yes, a wastebasket … and a something for supper.
I wandered around the Walmart and found a few other things for my life in the truck. It was crowded at the front of the store and people were lined up behind the small order self scan areas. Using a human cashier is preferable to me anyway, so I got in line behind one of the few open lanes.
The woman ahead of me in line was a good looking young woman in a bright green tracksuit, with yellow, almost golden piping down each leg and accenting the jacket. She had incredibly long, brightly colored fingernails and impossibly large false eyelashes. Her long braids that were knotted together intricately with little golden strands accented several of the large braids. She was very busy organizing her stuff.
She must have been moving into a new place and had piles of household stuff; mops, cleaning stuff, a laundry basket and a broom. A small knick knack frame containing an inspiration quotation was causing trouble. It wouldn’t scan. The cashier didn’t seem sure how to handle the glitch. Or perhaps she was stalling hoping that the woman would say “just forget that one.” The customer was holding out.
Off to my left were some larger self scan aisles and I began to move my cart. The lights were all on as if the aisles were open, but I noticed that all of the register terminals were opened up for maintenance or something. As I abruptly turned back into the aisle, I nearly bumped into another guy approaching the registers.
He motioned for me to continue and got in line behind me. I smiled and nodded asking how he was.
“Well, I’m all right, but this eastside Walmart has the worst customer service.”
“Yeah, it’s amazing all the customers backed up behind so little help at the registers,” I replied.
He craned his neck back and forth. Then gave up and started unloading his stuff onto the belt behind the divider bar I had placed behind my stuff.
“I never come in here anymore, but I was on this side of town,” he grumbled.
The guy must have been coming off work; a contractor of some kind. He had a plain windbreaker, work t shirt and some jeans; topped with a Buffalo Bills hat. He laid out his groceries and proudly explained the excellent crockpot meal he was going to create when he got home.
I explained that I had walked over from the truckstop and had forgotten to bring a mask. We shifted from bitching about Walmart customer service to talking about the pandemic craziness in the world. He was wearing a mask as was the tracksuit gal, still waiting for a price in front of us.
I explained that I was trying to stay out of the fray.
“I worked for a wise Dutch guy when I was in Indiana. He used to always say ‘Never argue with a fool in public, because bystanders will start to get confused about who is who.”
“I know that’s right!” exclaimed the track suit woman. She hadn’t said a word up to that point but I had apparently struck a nerve.
The three of us had a short chat on keeping our cool in the crazy world. The cashier finally got a price on the inspirational knick knack and the gal was off with a cart piled high. Just the way she carried herself, she seemed like she was starting a new life as much as getting a new place.
The cashier was mildly apologetic and scanned my items. I told her not to worry and poked my card into the machine. As I pulled my card and stuffed it back into my wallet, I told my new Buffalo Bills friend that it was nice to meet him and that I hoped he had a good year.
“It has to be better this year, eh?” I said as I nodded to him.
“It already is better, because I met you.” he declared before turning to the cashier.
I smiled, waved, and walked back to the Pilot. Maybe this will be a good year.