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When a Grocery Store Cashier Apologized for the Bagger With a Disability Being 'Slow'

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Tonight I left the house at 7:15 to go to the grocery store. I drove past the store where you pay 25 cents for a cart and you bag your own groceries. I drove past the store where you can buy everything from clothing to lawn chemicals as well as your meat and potatoes. I went to the store where I know there are employees who have disabilities.

After filling my grocery cart to the brim with the coming week’s meal items as well as a majority of what will become our family’s Thanksgiving dinner, I pulled my cart up to the checkout counter. The person in front of me was paying for their items and I began to unload. A young man came over and asked if he could unload the rest of my groceries, a second stood at the counter ringing everything up, and a third man, John*, stood at the end of the aisle waiting to put the groceries into bags, then into the waiting second cart.

Man #1 quickly unloaded my entire cart. Man #2 scanned as many groceries as he could fit on the end part of the carousel area. John began bagging groceries. He looked through, found the canned items and put them carefully in a bag, then into the cart. He found the cold items and put them together. He grabbed the items in glass jars, bagged them, then put them in the cart.

The cashier stood there and watched him. He put two things in a bag. The first man walked away. John continued to put things logically into the bags and carefully into the cart.

He moves at a pace that’s right for him. He works through his thought process, completing a job he was well-trained to do. He doesn’t move slowly. Unless you compare him to the cashier. Then, you see he takes more time as he methodically goes about his job and carefully packs the groceries away.

Tonight as the last of my groceries was put into my cart, I thanked John for his work.  I pointed out a place where that last bag he held would fit without squashing any bread, eggs, or fruit. He offered to bring my groceries to the car, and as always I declined. Then he turned back to his work.

The cashier handed me the receipt, and said, “I’m sorry it took so long… working slow tonight.”

All sorts of thoughts ran through my head as I walked out to my car. John needs a job like this. He did very well at his job. He’s not a marathon runner or riding in a bicycle race. He’s going about at a pace that’s fast for him, and compared to someone else on another checkout aisle, he wouldn’t have seemed very slow at all. And yet, he was being looked at as if he’s slowly ambling along.

Have you been at that cashier’s line lately? Have you had that person who works more slowly than others put your groceries into bags? Have you given them grace?

What the cashier didn’t know about me is that I am proud of John. He didn’t know that in about 20 years, I will be the proud parent of six adults much like John. He didn’t know that no matter the hurry I may have been in, I was willing to wait for John.

He didn’t know that tonight when I left the house at 7:15 I drove past the other stores to shop at the one that hires people with disabilities. And I was happy to have John carefully help me check out.

*Name changed.

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Originally published: November 7, 2016
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