B’shert is a lodestar, a guiding principle of my life. Whatever transpires, positive or negative, was destined and meant to be. A recent event exemplifies b’shert in my life.
During the first week of December 2021, I was shopping at a grocery store near my home. It was around 9am. Shelves were being restocked and only one regular “fewer than 15 items” cashier line was open.
With more than 15 items, I was waiting in that line behind two other customers. Within a few moments, Sue*, a cashier, came up and quickly began opening up a second non-express line.
She was nearly done setting up when a young man dashed past me and other customers to be the first in her lane. How could I tell he was young? Because, even wearing a mask, his face was very youthful. I quickly moved back, got out of his way and then got in line behind him.
He rapidly began unloading his basket onto the conveyer belt. Sue began ringing up his items. I killed time by idly noticing what he was wearing. Cold weather had arrived so I was bundled up in a winter coat, hat and scarf. He, however, was wearing lightweight clothing as if it was spring or summer: bright orange work out shorts and a wind breaker. I was thinking he might have just finished exercising or was heading to do so once he’d finished his shopping.
Everything was uneventful until Sue got to the bananas. She placed them on the produce scale, punched in the item code but they didn’t ring up. In a calm voice, she told the young man she would try again. She did, with the same result.
She lifted the bananas and then started putting them again on the scale, to try one more time. I could hear the young man getting very agitated as he snapped ,“Don’t ring them up. I won’t take them. You’re so slow.”
Moving the bananas aside, Sue then reached for the kiwi. As she did so, the young man snapped even more loudly, “I don’t want that!” Sue asked him which item he didn’t want. He screamed, “I don’t want the kiwi! I only needed it to go with the bananas. You’re so slow, you’re making me late!”
As Sue was hurriedly ringing up the remaining items, his screaming escalated, his words rushing together. He started leaning over the counter, shouting as he drew closer to her: “I have to go —you’re so slow —you’re making me late —just ring up the rest!”
I was getting angrier and angrier by the abuse he was hurling at Sue. I moved closer and spoke firmly so he could hear me through my mask: “She’s not being slow, she’s trying to help…” Before I’d even finished, he whipped around, came right up to me and started screaming over and over ,“Who the f__k are you? Mind your own f**king business!” To his last “who the f**k are you?” I said, “I know who I am and what you are.”
The only positive outcome of my intervention was giving Sue time to finish ringing him up. He paid for the groceries, grabbed his grocery bag off the counter and stormed out of the store.
Once he was gone, another cashier shouted over to Sue “Are you okay? What was his problem?” and “That was awful.” Sue replied “I’m fine” and, to me, “thanks for trying to help.”
The entire incident flashed by so fast I hadn’t had time to think about looking for a store manager.
I was rattled by this start to my day. I tried shaking off my anger but couldn’t do so immediately. I was angry this young man thought he could act so abusively to two women without any repercussions. I felt better knowing I had tried to help.
About two weeks later I was back in the store. It was pretty crowded with customers so there were several open cashier lines. I don’t know the staff’s work schedules so was glad to see Sue. She was handling a non-express line register.
Although I could have used the “express” lane, I opted to wait in Sue’s line. I wanted to just casually ask how she was doing. I had some lingering concern the young man might have made a complaint about her.
When I got to the register, I asked Sue if she was okay. She looked up from wiping the conveyer belt. Smiling she said, “The day after the incident, I got two phone calls here at the store. Each time, I was busy with customers so asked the manager to tell the caller I couldn’t take the call. The person didn’t leave a name or number.” She went on, “ I got another call the next day and this time I could take it.”
Her smile got wider as she told me, “It was the young man from the other day. He’d been trying to reach me to apologise. He said he didn’t know what happened to him that morning or why he had acted the way he had. He assured her a few times, “That isn’t who I am and I feel so badly.” As if I wasn’t already sufficiently surprised, Sue grinned and added, he also asked me to apologise to you whenever I might see you in the store. Stunned, happily so, I thanked her and went home.
Only one word is needed to capture the start and finish to this entire encounter, B’shert: the convergences culminating in what was meant to be: witnessing the original incident; shopping again during one of Sue’s cashier shifts; and opting to wait in her line.
But for all of these interlocking convergences, I might not have heard this gratifying, very unexpected coda to a truly horrible encounter. B’shert really is my lodestar.