As crowds converge at a checkout line in the days before Christmas, Holly, an aptly named cashier if you discount the bored expression and snake tattoo, faces a customer who has played the Christmas sales game to perfection, visiting store after store in rapid succession as part of a neighborhood shopping team that shops hard on every day for key sales items. Working together, hitting all the targeted sales, shopping for each other, and sharing information to meet everyone’s shopping needs, they are a successful team.
It’s 9:45 PM and the successful customer has finally reached the end of a 12 hour day and the head of Holly’s line. She is slightly bent over from bargain overload weariness, with sagging sleep deprived eyes and rounded shoulders, but her mind is still feverish with satisfaction over the bargains she has found. Holly notices that she has four sacks on one arm along with a small purse. Her other hand is burdened with two sacks and an I-phone on which she is texting rapidly to another shopping team member about a bargain she has seen.
Finding herself at the head of the line, she realizes that she needs to find her credit card. Rather than turning off her phone she contorts her non-texting hand on the arm weighed down by the four sacks to reach into the small purse without setting down the bags or stopping her texting. Searching frantically now for her credit card in the small purse with one hand while continuing to text with the other, she suddenly becomes aware of the passage of time and the fact that the pressure of the line behind her makes her feel like she is now moving in slow motion.
She remembers that she had transferred everything that she would need to the small purse so that it would be easier to carry, but now she is beginning to regret the choice as she realizes that she has everything she wants but nothing is where it belongs. As time passes and her one-handed search continues while her other hand continues to text, she begins to feel rather than see or hear an animosity growing in the line behind her.
Finally closing the phone and finding the credit card, she slides it, still warm from the last purchase, through the card machine. To her relief it’s accepted, but she notices immediately that the amount on the register is 17 cents higher than the newspaper ad sales price of $225.20. She shows Holly the ad and asks for a new total as a faint but palpably tense audible murmur begins in the line behind her. The person directly behind her even pressing up against her sacks with a not so subtle hint of irritation and intimidation.
Finally to everyone’s delight the “price is right,” and she begins to search for a pen in her disordered purse to sign the credit slip.. Not finding one, she looks pleadingly at Holly who gives her a plain white BIC with a plastic spoon taped to the top end. Thankfully, she signs her slip and feels the building pressure from the line behind her begin to ease.
Done and greatly pleased with the material goods she has purchased, she gathers her sacks and purse and prepares to leave when her cell phone rings. She answers the phone before she clears Holly’s register cue, once again holding up the line. Continuing to fumble with her packages, her purse, and her cell phone, the cashier and the people at the front of the line hear, as you often do on a cell phone, an unnaturally loud voice that asks, “Hi Hon, how’s little Danny doing with the Christmas shopping?” At first she whispers quietly with a question in her voice, ”Danny?” and then louder with panic in her eyes, “Danny?” quickly turning to look at the space behind her. Then spinning around and dropping her phone and prized packages on the floor, she frantically scans the crowd and screams hysterically, “Danny! Danny, where are you?”
Danny doesn’t answer and the crowd behind her, who moments ago was angry and impatient, looks around with concern as she begins running towards the store entrance shrieking Danny’s name and leaving what used to be her very important purchases, phone and purse scattered haphazardly on the floor behind her. As she frantically runs, she suddenly realizes that all she had found could never measure up to what she may have lost.
Danny was found by his mother on a bench outside of the store sitting by someone’s grandmother, talking non-stop to the patiently listening white-haired elderly stranger. No N.C.I.S., no C.S.I., no P.D. and No, “ it’s not Heaven,” but it is still and I hope always will be Iowa where, when it’s all said and done, we all care for each other and when given the opportunity during this Christmas season we all realize what is truly important.