I was next in line at the grocery checkout. The woman in front of me was ready to pay; she fumbled her hand inside her purse and withdrew a worn, black, checkbook cover.

She sat it atop the tiny ledge next to the card reader and cracked it open like a treasure chest. I watched her as she looked up at the total on the screen and began writing.

I leaned against my cart and sighed. How long would THIS take? Her hand was a bit unsteady as she carefully applied the date to the top corner. The body of the check would probably take forever. I took a deep breath and forced myself to be patient.

I wasn’t late for anything; I had all the time in the world. This extra minute would not ruin/change/affect my day. I just didn’t want to wait.

At that moment, I realized how much life has changed in the last few decades and how my personality has changed with it.

The pace of life has quickened, and I have adapted in ways that are not flattering.

I have never been a patient person; neither with others or with myself. In my self-centered way, I’ve tried to balance kindness with an urge to hurry things up to suit my own timetable. This business of being human can be tricky.

Now, it seems immediate gratification fuels every interaction and transaction of my day. I expect others to move and interact in a seamless pattern that matches my own. Time is at a premium in my mind, and even though each day is as long as it’s always been, I seem to think I need to hurry or be left behind.

Debit cards make shopping a breeze. Just shove/swipe the card, punch some numbers, and go. Information is available 24/7 online, as is every product you could ever imagine. You can text your family and expect a response in moments, because we carry our phones everywhere.

My doctor is a portal message away and I can reorder prescriptions online. My paycheck is deposited automatically…no more waiting in line at the bank. 

The change in my mindset happened over time, but it has happened. I have things to do, and the faster I can accomplish them the more empowered I feel.

Being forced to stop and wait is jarring, but it gives me time to remember the world as it used to be.

I think about my mother, who died 30+ years ago. I can imagine her trying to remember passwords and filling out online forms with fingers that were unaccustomed to the constant tapping of keypads and keyboards. 

She would still have her checkbook. She would write out her check with a flourish of cursive handwriting, dotting i’s and crossing t’s. And she would take her sweet time—just like the woman in front of me at the grocery checkout—making sure she flipped down the ledger to record her check number, date and purchase.

I imagine her tearing the check carefully, perforation dot by perforation dot, and handing it to the checker as if trusting her with a precious document.

I don’t think I would have wanted Mom to be like me…tapping her foot and counting the seconds until it was her turn to pay and go and move on to the next frenetic interaction.

I was sad for myself as I watched the woman fold up the checkbook and place it in its designated spot in what the woman probably referred to as “her pocketbook”. I saw the checker display none of my impatience as she thanked her and smiled calmly as the woman pushed her purchase away. 

I took a slow, deep, breath and stepped forward, card already in hand.

Contact Robin at robinwrites@yahoo.com.  Or send a letter!

Robin Garrison Leach PO BOX 5301 Quincy, IL. 62305.