Thursday, October 21, 2010
At Checkstand Number One
So you're minding your own business, trying to ignore the bleak environment of discount shopping, expecting the usual jostling of grocery carts for the shortest line. You dutifully unload your cluster of tomatoes (on the vine, with little green crowns), bulk almonds (raw, unsalted), and Honey Bunches of Oats (for the husband), when you look up into the smiling face of a clerk who greets you warmly, cracks a joke, and engages you in friendly conversation. You relax. You're smiling now. You notice others behind you in line, also smiling. Patient, happy. There's something remarkable about this.
That something remarkable is Chris Pikey, employee of the local WinCo Foods. People have been known to wait half an hour to gain the privilege of being in his line. Chris knows that attitude is more important than prestige, and doing ordinary things with kindness and a sense of humor make a person extraordinary.
(Actually, a sense of humor was on my shopping list.)
I was so impressed with the way Chris changed my day, that first time he checked my groceries. I couldn't wait to drive across town for another trip through his line.
The steady chirp of the scanner pierced the air as Chris bantered. “Looks like you did great,” he told one customer with a burgeoning shopping cart. “Hey, stranger, what’s up?” he teased another joining the line. “Only one cart today?" he asked. "Where’s the rest of it?” And a little later: “So how’s your kid? I haven’t seen him since the birthday.”
I asked him how he stays so friendly and positive with everyone.
“You’ve got to live each day like it’s your last day," he said. "You’ll have no regrets. When I go up and see God, I’m sure he’s not going to tell me, 'You lived in a big house.' He’s going to say, 'I gave you this much time and what did you do with it?' Hopefully, the escalator up will not be broken."
I asked him how he keeps his sense of humor. “It’s the only thing you have," he said.
“How do you handle customers who try your patience?” I went on.
“I’ve been here fifteen years, so I’ve seen it all. People know if you come to this line, I don’t handle grumps. I handle cool people.” He smiled at a mom with toddler in tow. “Except for this one, she’s kind of a troublemaker.” The mom beamed back at him. “If I’m going to be here for 8 hours," says Chris, "I might as well have fun.”
“That’ll be $102.74. Have a good day!" he said, handing a receipt to a finished shopper.
“You too,” came the response.
“Oh, always,” he said.