During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, my mind goes back to an experience from two years ago. JB and I were headed to some sort of holiday event, I cant remember exactly what. Even though we were already running late, we had to make a stop at Publix to pick up some party supplies. To save time, we planned a divide-and-conquer strategy, meeting back at the checkout. The store was typically busy for a Friday night on the week before Christmas and even though the cashiers and baggers were efficiently keeping the shoppers moving, the lines were about five carts deep. The boop boop of the bar code scans seemed to fit in time with the piped-in holiday music.
There must be some sort of cosmic law that states no matter which lane I choose, there's going to be a price check, a shopper that needs to run back for a forgotten item or one of those people who not only still pays with a check, but also needs to take the time to tediously record the transaction in their ledger to make sure the account is still in balance.
As I shifted my bag of ice between arms to check my watch, JB began motioning to draw my attention to the older gentleman waiting ahead of us. It looked like he was also on his way to a Christmas party. He was wearing red and green suspenders and a matching bow tie, and it occurred to me that his appearance and demeanor would be perfectly suited to a seasonal stint as a department store Santa. I silently hoped he wasn't packing a checkbook. We acknowledged each other's festive attire (I was wearing a Santa hat, JB had reindeer antlers on) and he winked from behind his bifocals. "Merry Christmas," he said.
"Merry Christmas," we responded obligingly.
When it was his turn, the man said something that made the cashier laugh cheerfully. I didn't pick the fastest lane, but ours seemed to be the warmest and happiest. The man and young woman had a friendly exchange as I was focussed on finding a spot on the conveyor belt to put down my ice. He wished her a "Merry Christmas!" as he took his bag and receipt. "Merry Christmas..." she said and watched him intently was he left the store. Then she looked to her nearest coworkers, as if she expected them to be watching.
As she turned back to her duties, I noticed her wipe a tear. She was still smiling but, while so gregarious a minute ago, she was now somewhere far away. She scanned half our groceries, then paused and looked up at us, her eyes pooling. "His card..." she hesitated for a second, as if embarrassed. Then her cheerful laughter returned as she resumed scanning and said, "The name on his credit card is 'Santa Clause'."