Sometimes being an introvert can be a bad thing.
This evening while I was waiting in the checkout line at Walmart, there was a couple in front of me trying to pay for part of their groceries with food stamps … or SNAP, or whatever you call it. They had a bunch of printed certificates that covered specific items, but when the cashier went to process them, she pointed out that they had already expired.
The Mom ran out to the car to look for money or more certificates or something while the Dad stayed with their son who was just sitting in the cart, minding his own business. I had watched the Mom play with her son to keep him entertained for the last 20 minutes while we stood in line together, and they seemed like nice enough people. About 5 minutes later, the Dad left to go after her while the cashier watched the kid, but when both parents finally returned, they were grumbling to one another about not paying attention, and then the Mom walked off to get a cart to go put the extra items back that they couldn’t pay for.
While I watched all of this unfold, I imagined in my head offering to pay for it for them myself … in the spirit of the season and all … but instead I just stood there and politely waited until it was my turn to checkout, and said nothing. The guy even apologized for holding up the line, and I shrugged it off and said, “No problem…” but nothing more.
It wasn’t a lot of stuff – a couple of gallons of milk, some eggs, beans … couldn’t have been more than $20.
They didn’t even do the typical Walmart stereotype and just walk away, leaving all of that cold food for the cashier to deal with. While the Dad took their son and the rest of the food out to the car, the Mom headed back into the store to put each of the items back where they had found them.
I wish I had spoken up and just offered to help.
I don’t know if I was worried about whether my offer would be well received, or if I was just nervous about the interaction in general. But even as they walked away and the cashier started to checkout my items, I instantly regretted my lack of action and wished that I could have turned back time and done it differently.
Next time it happens, I hope that I do.