Hope in the Checkout Line

Little bits of hope sometimes come in the most unexpected places.

I was in the checkout line of the local grocery store today when I happened to hear the two customers before me grumbling that the store had made the choice to purposefully understaff checkout lines in order to push people toward self-checkout lanes. Doing so allows the store to employ fewer people by making people do the work that employees used to do. It also slows down the checkout process, as people with full shopping carts full of food and diapers and kitty litter are never as efficient at checking out as someone who does this all day, every day.

I couldn’t contain myself.

“And those are also union jobs,” I piped up. “Good jobs with good wages and good benefits that they’re cutting. It really hurts to lose them.”


The man whose groceries were being rung up gave a grunt and a nod, while the

man closer to me — the older of the two — turned to me. He wasn’t annoyed at my buttinsky, but he seized on it as an opportunity.

“Miss, are you registered to vote?”

I was THRILLED to be on the other end of this question for once. I can’t recall how many times I have asked others this questions. I don’t know how many doors I have knocked on and how many strangers I have struck up this conversation with. If I weren’t confined to the narrow checkout lane, I may have well danced.

“I am!”

He wasn’t done. “And do you vote?”

I was so happy with this guy I could kiss him on the forehead. “I do! Not only that, until two months ago, I worked for the House Democrats, so it means everything to me.”

The man checking out turned to me “What do you do now?”

“I work at a place trying to end mass incarceration.”

The younger guy gave a nod. “That’s important, too.” His order was done, his bags were ready. He shook the hand of the other man and they told each other how they were glad to have met each other, and he went on his way.

The older man turned back to me while the woman ran his groceries through. We chatted about the state of the election, why people vote the way they do. Political small talk. But it was everything. I never expected to meet up with two fellow travelers at the checkout line of the grocery store, but just knowing that others were out there caring about where we are heading and willing to talk to strangers about it meant everything to me today.

We can all do this. We can all strike up a conversation with someone at a bus stop, at a shop, wherever you might be among others. The election is less than two months away. It  matters more than ever. When we vote, we win. Have hope.

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