The woman shook her head and moved one of the cans to one side. The attendant laboriously voided that purchase, and punched in new numbers. The recalculated total was $15.23. The woman shook her head again. It was clear she had only $15, not a penny more, and she thought for a moment, and then took one of the small loaves out of her pile. My thoughts were slow in catching up with me; perhaps I should have offered her the quarter.
Her new total was $14.56. I could see, as I have seen so many times before at this supermarket, but especially so this year, that there was a budget that had to be stretched, a modest one. The task was to come as close to that exact amount with as many items as possible. I imagined she was buying for a household.
So, we learn patience with each other. We let as much time as is needed go into counting money, estimating added tax, smoothing out rumpled food stamps, watching intently as the eyes decide between spaghetti and air-freshener, between canned peas and frozen spinach, the anxiety of an enforced triage. In the same torpor of hardship are the customers and the shop attendants. In the absence of money, time itself slows down.
I could use some of that patience just now.
After yesterday's rain, our water pipe appears to have broken. I'm hoping it's the water pipe and not the sewage. If it is the sewage, I think I will count my blessings, because we had closed the water inlet and the chances of all the water getting contaminated is minimal.
But since I suppose we can't take chances, we will have a dramatic and eventful weekend ahead.