I had been standing in line at a store which I frequent (and which I shall not identify). The slowness of the service reflected the holiday season and I did not mind it. However, of the two cashiers, one frequently coughed with open mouth, wiped her nose with the back of either hand, and chewed gum noisely, showering spittle over the counter.
Ick. Interestingly, that cashier resembled me: White, middle-aged, female. The other cashier had olive skin, gorgeous brown eyes, and couldn’t have been more than 25.
By the time I placed my items on the counter, the unsanitary woman had begun snorting audibly and swiping the back of her hand across her mouth and nose. Luckily, she walked away from the counter, giving me a chance to lean very close to the register and whisper, I’d prefer that the other lady not handle my purchases because she has a really bad cold and is not using a tissue. Understatement, but not complaining, right?
The younger woman froze and the frost flowed from her to me. She began shoving my items about as though trying to break them. She took my money, handed it to the second cashier who had just returned, and told her to ring my purchase. This resulted in my change being under the woman’s nose as she sneezed.
But I smiled and said “Merry Christmas”. On the way out, the owner of the store opened the door for me. Knowing the owner [gender withheld], I very quietly asked if I could say something. Certainly, came the response. I turned my back towards the cashier station so as not to offend anyone, and whispered that the lady at the check-out seemed to be suffering from a severe cold and not taking precautions such as using a Kleenex or hand sanitizer. I said that I have an impaired immune system, and as such it really concerned me that no precautions were being taken.
The owner snapped, loudly enough for someone on Pluto to hear, “Well, we all have colds here. If you’re worried about that, you should shop somewhere else.” The owner turned away and let the door slam.
I feel good about my attempt to say something without complaining. I recognize that their conduct does not reflect anything about me. I used non-violent communication. I did not judge. I did not raise my voice. I made no accusations, used no harsh language. I also did not succeed in getting my needs met, but it’s a jackal-eat-jackal world and we giraffes understand that not everybody responds well to our approach — at least, not at first.
I’m determined to continue on this path. I reject the old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease as a justification for complaining. If I live by any platitude, it will be, “Laugh and the world laughs with you.”
Nine more days in the twenty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.