I Met an Angry Lady at the Check-out Line Today: Part 1



The neighborhood grocery store with its too-high prices is just a few blocks away from where I live. I only needed three items, but this week I’m on staycation. Forget about time constraints. I took my time driving across town to the shopping mall, enjoying the fact that I get to live in this beautiful city.

When I arrived at the mall, I found a parking spot close to the grocery store, a feat which confirmed this truly was a glorious, work-free, weekday morning.

I entered the store and worked my way down the aisles. A bag of cat litter. A jug of water. A pack of gum. Done. I pushed my cart towards the “Express” check-out. There must have been ten people waiting.

So I steered my cart to Checkstand Four, which had one person waiting. Much better.

The woman in line had a full basket, so I prepared for the wait. I opened my purse to get my phone, but the words I was hearing distracted me. Angry words from an Angry Lady.

A Super-Loud-With-Her-Angry-Words Lady.

“I can’t believe the management at this store!” Slam item onto the counter. “Why don’t they get another checker?!” Slam item onto the counter. “It’s always like this in here!” Slam. Slam. Slam.

She wasn’t talking to anyone directly, and no one was talking to her. All I heard was anger, slams, and the beeping of the grocery scanner.

I noticed the orchid in the Angry Lady’s cart — so delicate, so beautiful. Quite a contrast from its soon-to-be owner.

She looked at me. I smiled at her. The Angry Lady was nicely dressed and her make-up was just right. She had wrinkles that revealed her age despite the sandy-brown hair color. She looked at the items in my cart, looked back at me, and said, “Why don’t you use the express lane?! Fifteen items or less!”

“The line is pretty long over there,” I said.

“That’s what I mean about this place. They need better management. And I hate waiting in line. The service here is awful.” She stopped slamming her groceries and proceeded to tell me about all the things she had to do, including the Spanish class for which she would now be late.

“I don’t mind waiting in line,” I said. “Things could be worse. We could be standing in line waiting for our first and only meal of the day.”

The clerk looked at me. The people at the head of the line looked at me. And the Angry Lady looked at me.

“Humph!” she said. “Well, I wish I could have that attitude.”

“You can.” I provided a number of other bad situations for which she could be standing in line. Funeral. Clothing handout. Place to sleep after a fire. Little things like that. “Plus, you can practice being patient for a time when you really need it. I love to do that while standing in line.” I chuckled.

She took a step back and frowned. “Here.” She thrust her arm towards me. “Rub some of that attitude on me!”

So I reached towards her and rubbed her arm. We both laughed as she continued loading the belt with groceries. I noticed the amused expressions of the store clerk and the customer ahead of the Angry Lady as he paid and left.

“Well, they could at least open another checker, don’t you think?” Her tone had softened.

“I bet they would if they could. I always imagine that there is a good reason for it.”

She looked at me with a smile that teetered on frustration. Then she said, “Okay, okay! I’ll try to look at it that way.”

“Excellent,” I said. “Patience is a virtue. What’s your name?” The Angry Lady didn’t look so angry anymore. She told me her name — Fran* — and I told her mine.

“Darla. That’s a pretty name,” she said. Of course I had to tell her the story of my sister Lynne and how I got my name. Sensing her true age, I knew Fran would recognize the Our Gang character. “That’s a wonderful story, Darla. Yes, I remember watching that TV show.”

Our conversation continued as the clerk quietly checked the grocery items. Fran told me that she had only lived in Santa Barbara for one year. She came here from New York.

I felt even more compassion for her after hearing that little fact.

New York, she explained, had better customer service. Not like here, she assured me. The clerk stood waiting and I nodded to let Fran know that it was time to pay.

She slid her card through the payment machine. “How does this thing work? What am I doing wrong?” She tapped the number pad and kept sliding the card, back and forth. I gave the clerk a “Please help her” look. He did. I glanced behind me. Traffic jam at Checkstand Four.

Finally, with her payment made and her groceries bagged, Fran was ready to go. “I do feel better, Darla. I do! Goodbye!”

I waved to her. “Nice to meet you, Fran. Have a great day.”

“I will! You, too! Hope I don’t get to my class too late. No, no, I don’t need any help out.” She shooed away the bagger, steered her cart, and headed for the exit.

Finally, it was my turn. The clerk scanned my three items. He didn’t say a word about Fran. I didn’t say a word about Fran. We both grinned. When I handed him my cash, he asked me if I had a store card. “That’ll save you some … three dollars,” he said. Yikes. I had forgotten to enter my information and I was glad he had reminded me. Tap, tap, tap, on the number pad.

I saw the woman, next in line, frown. ∞

NEXT: Part 2 – Darla Spots Fran Loading Groceries Just Steps From Her Car

[Click here to read Part 2]

* Fran is not her real name.

Note: I never noticed that my orchid photo looked so angry until I wrote this story. It’s a blue orchid, but the emotion came through better in black and white.

Darla McDavid

I'm Darla, a writer of stories about family, friends, goodness, and God. I love cats, coffee, gardening, and tall stacks of books. Click here to subscribe to my blog. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram. In my other life, I'm an administrative professional and a Sunday School teacher for preschoolers.

10 Comments Write a comment

  1. Thanks Darla for that great story of how have Patience in our everyday life, though
    I may be somewhat biased if it happened in a Walmart, seems like there’s always only one or two checkers per hundred customers, ha ha, and They actually can afford to hire more people, yet choose not to, or take care of there employees, but that’s another subject, I’ve always found that a smile, and friendliness, goes a lot further than a frown, and anger, I’m so glad you chose to share some happiness with her versus getting mad at her, it sounded like She was not having a good day to start with, I wish I was still there in my Hometown, I would have a hard time not smiling, just being there, Thanks for your article Darla, Best Regards Larry


    • Hi, Larry — Hello, from your hometown. I am wondering if we went to school together. Santa Barbara is just as wonderful as its ever been but in different ways. If I was in Walmart, I would have the same thoughts, so here’s hoping you use them next time you’re here — ha! Thank you for reading the story and for understanding the importance of sharing our patience with others. Take care!


  2. Darla, this encounter could have dipped south and ended badly, but you showed so many fine, encouraging qualities…and you gave “Fran” the gift of your time: listening, responding, sharing details. This post is valuable and inspiring.


    • Thank you, Marilyn. I hope everyone who reads it remembers to take this route as they wait in line. For me, I was sharing some of the love of God with her that He has shared so wonderfully with me — one who used to be so ANGRY with Him.


  3. Darla, you are an amazing woman – I will remember this article the next time I get a bit impatient in line or with whatever. I usually try to remember when I am line and waiting for what seems to be eternity and I am late for something is that the clerk or slow driver ahead of me did not make me late, I made myself late and it is not their fault but my own….:) Then proceed to thank God for reminding me we create our circumstances. Someone also told me how strong I am after Tom passed away and I go on to tell them it is the strength that only comes from the power of the Holy Spirit and how I praise and thank God that I had 35 years with Tom, yes short, but I know many women who did not even have 5 or 10 years…once I started to thank God in my grief His strength for each day just naturally took over. Same with what you wrote, thank God and His peace will fill the depths of our souls.


    • That is the key, Patty. Reminding ourselves that things could be worse, and thanking God for thanking God for each day that He gives. One thing I didn’t mention in the story (there was much more to our conversation) is that I told her I had gone through too much ugliness in my life to complain about waiting in line at a grocery store. We went into that a bit during our parking lot conversation. Can’t wait to hear how my story helped you in your next long line adventure!


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