Today, I felt like I stepped back in time. Or into the kind of past you see on TV. I've never met so many good tempered people gathered together at one time before.
Let me start at the beginning. My local health food store is moving. In preparation for the big event, they stopped restocking the shelves and promised loyal customers that the last day everything would receive markdowns. Today's the last day.
I knew it would be hot, and crowded. My heart plummeted when I saw people walking over from two parking lots down. But...25% off is just too good to miss, when your grocery bill has been creeping upwards. So we waited our turn, the kids grumbling quietly in the backseat.
Our first miracle was finding a parking space right in front of the store. The carts were entirely gone. There were none even floating in the parking lot. A line was forming near the exit for those willing to follow a fellow shopper to their car and take the cart from there.
Not a good sign. Something felt wrong so far, but I hadn't put my finger on it yet.
We wove our way into the produce section. I blinked a few times before understanding that the wall of people in front of me were actually in line. It was winding its way all the way through the bulk foods and around cases of apples and displays of strawberries.
My youngest started to cry. I quickly assured her that we didn't really need any produce, and zipped through the line to the less crowded, but still very busy area behind. I found a lot of empty shelves. Interesting items were out, but not many suited our allergies. We wound our way about, occasionally stopping to grab the last one or two boxes of anything I buy on a relatively regular basis.
Something still didn't feel right. It was like walking through a dream world. People were there, people were everywhere, but it wasn't a painful crowded experience.
I've gone shopping the day before Thanksgiving, and on Christmas eve, I've been in stores the Friday before cooking holidays and visited plenty of clearance sales. They're never quite this crowded. But, those crowds are much more miserable to navigate.
We were bumped once. The offender turned to quickly apologize, not just to me but to my daughter. People were...smiling. People apologized for being in the way of display cases, tall customers were handing out of reach items down to shorter customers. I saw one woman pass a container to another family after they said "Oh, she got the last one." A man in line offered some of his soup cans to a woman who mentioned she was on the same diet because she didn't realize there were suitable soups. Now, none of these actions are terribly extraordinary. The extraordinary thing is that every where we turned, we saw someone going out of their way to help someone else.
I don't know what it was about today. But, I am impressed. Shocked, in fact. We stood in line for half an hour, and it hit me. Despite the crowds, lack of organization on the shelves, and limited selections; no one, not one person was angry or frustrated. There were plenty of laughter and smiles. In the world of Hogwarts, you'd think the entire store had been under a "Cheering Charm".
It was the craziest I've ever seen a shop (unless you count Toys R Us the Sunday before Christmas) and it was the most pleasant shopping trip I think I've ever taken. I mentioned this to the cashier and she said she'd been noticing the same thing. She'd never seen anything like it.
My faith in humanity has been restored.