I was driving to Publix, my Publix, the one I can get to the back way through my neighborhood. I like having that Publix there especially in the evening because it doesn’t seem like a big deal to run over and pick something up if an emergency cooking need should arise. There’s no traffic to fight or anything. Normally, running out for extra groceries isn’t something I do. I’m a firm believer in once-a-week shopping so that I’m not galavanting to the store all the time wasting money and having to stop what I’m in the middle of or leave my precious home sweet home right when I get cozy with the idea of putting on slippers and sweat pants. But this week has been a radical break from my norm. I’ve already been twice since real grocery day which was only three days ago.
Now, sometimes that would just bug the crud out of me, but today I’m feeling mellow and I’m taking a certain enjoyment in the fact that I can run out real quick and all. Sort of like realizing one day that putting clothes in a washer and transferring it to a dryer later is hardly some big chore to complain about. In actuality it’s a pretty cool privilege when you think about it, especially if you also think about people beating their clothes on a rock in a dirty river without detergent trying to get them clean. Or worse yet if you think about going to a Laundromat. But I digress.
So I am trying to counter the irritable culture around me that feels the need to complain about every little inconvenience or delay or whatever gets our goat on an average day. I’m even trying not to complain about something like having to stop what I’m doing to get something at the store. In reality it’s a luxury to have a grocery store within 2 minutes and a car to take me there, not to mention finding the $2.98 that I need for my purchase right in my pocket in the form of cash.
So, I’m driving to the store and as I pass the house that used to be a gaudy, unnaturally bright pink, I’m confused because it is now a monotone beige color. I was curious about how and when that had happened and other thoughts related to the surprise of seeing it a foreign, normal color, but more importantly, at that particular moment I had also been consciously evaluating whether I had taken notice of anything around me lately, you know like seeing the profound in the ordinary. So I pursued that thought and remembered that there had been a few such observations in the last couple of days. But I nodded in agreement with myself that certain insights require more writing than the time span of regular life allows.
Naturally by now I was turning into Publix’s parking lot, so driving thoughts had to cease and parking lot thoughts kicked in. One shouldn’t be caught with driving thoughts while trying to maneuver a grocery store parking lot at around 5:00 p.m. (just a little something I picked up along the way).
I parked way out so as to avoid holding up traffic while waiting for the good spot and went straight to the spaghetti aisle and picked up two packets of the herb garlic sauce mix I needed, having discarded my thought process altogether. I got in the only open express lane behind two other shoppers; the same aisle I found myself in last night when I made the first extra shopping run of the week. I was handing my money to the smiling female cashier and that’s when I saw it. Something profound right there in the ordinary. A message just for me at the express lane.
I’ll tell you what I saw but first let me ask you this: have you ever noticed how seemingly unrelated events sometimes connect in such a way as to mean something to you even though in reality you’re pretty sure they were meant for someone else in a completely different situation? Call it co-ink-ee-dink if you like, but I figure if something speaks to me from my life, I should at least listen to what it has to say. I find if I listen to my life no matter how quirky the sound, I am often pleasantly surprised at what I hear and see.
So there I am in the express lane at my Publix and for the second day in a row, there tacked up next to the cashier is a message for me. Yes, I know, it’s really meant to be a sign for someone else. Someone needed a reminder too, but in my world the sign was placed just for me. The computer printed sign read simply: REMEMBER BOB. Simple, but for the second day in a row, I was taken aback.
Why REMEMBER BOB? Why would that be there, except for me? For all I know, REMEMBER BOB could be some secret code for the store’s employees. Maybe the cashier has a loan shark she’s keeping an eye out for and put the sign up as a reminder to get her payments in on time. It doesn’t really matter does it? For me the sign brought my thoughts to my brother, right there, with the rest of the world buying ice cream and burger buns around me. Remember Bob. My Bob. A personal message brought to me through something altogether impersonal, and I stared at it with a sort of wonder. The cashier’s hand was out now so I took my two cents change, my receipt, her smile and “have a wonderful evening” and along with it I took up a smile of my own and I remembered my big brother. I pictured his reaction to having his own grocery store sign and a cashier he never knew keeping his memory alive. I think he’d have smiled his smirky grin at that too.
This is the grin I'm thinking of exactly.
And on my way home, as I passed the newly beige house where I had been thinking my driving thoughts about ordinary miracles just minutes earlier, I had to appreciate how this one had made it’s way to me even here on an evening run to the express lane.