a peek inside the fishbowl

09 Oct, 2018


Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life

Thanks to poor planning on my part, I found myself doing a big grocery shop twice in one week. Seeing as though Thanksgiving was only a few days away I wasn’t exactly thrilled to be part of the pre-holiday grocery craziness.

List in hand, I went up and down and back and forth between the aisles, and after what seemed to be a Very Long Time, stood in the line at the checkout. I thought about my very long to-do list, the dishes I was planning on making, and our weekend plans for when the eldest comes home from university.

There was an elderly woman in the line directly ahead of me. She had a walker – the kind with a built-in chair – and was sitting on it when I fell into line behind her. I did a double take. It’s unusual to see someone sitting there; her seated position in the narrow aisle made her that much smaller than the young man behind the register, who had to hunch over and across the counter to speak to her.

He worked quickly. The young man weighed and scanned all of her groceries and announced the total owing. It was just over $11, which he repeated to her several times. From where I was standing she appeared to be hard of hearing but I also noticed that English was not her first language. He repeated himself several times with enormous patience and kindness, even attempting a bit of chitchat.

She pulled out a tiny change purse and started counting out coins. That’s when he raised his eyes, turned towards me, and gave me a look which I interpreted to mean: “I’m sorry this is taking so long.” Or perhaps he was simply assessing the growing line of harried shoppers behind me.

I smiled and gave a quick nod, a silent, “it’s ok.” I may have even winked at the poor fellow. Sidebar: I frequently embarrass myself with uncontrollable winking but I honestly can’t stop it from happening.

I watched as she unfolded a crisp $100 bill and gave it to him with a handful of small change. He quickly pulled the bills from his till and slowly counted them back into her hand with a clarity of language and precision of motion that would do a banker proud. Then he helped her bag her groceries and came out from behind the counter to help her with them.

Then it was my turn. We immediately reverted back to our roles of Cashier and Customer.

“Do you have bags today?” he asked.
I motioned to my bins. “Yep, I’m good, thanks.”

He scanned my groceries in silence and I watched the prices add up on the screen, but there was something between us now. We had inadvertently created a connection that could not go unnoticed. Frankly, I blame the wink for turning something innocuous into something bigger than it was, but I also believe that acts of kindness should be noticed and commended for the good of humankind.

“That was a nice thing you did,” I said slowly. “You were very kind to that elderly lady.” He paused, mid scan.
“Thanks,” he said. “You were too.”

I was surprised he said this. I was thanking HIM for HIS kindness, after all. I was just a bystander who had nothing to do with anything! I suddenly lost my train of thought and I didn’t know what to say.

“We are all going to be old someday…” I said, my sentence dying at the end because I really didn’t know where I was going with all of this.

He smiled. “I believe in karma,” he said.
“You know, I do too,” I said.

I paid for my groceries, took my receipt, and walked away. The bond created by a wink during a shared moment was broken forever, maybe not forgotten.

6 Responses to "Thanksgiving"

1 | Tammy

October 9th, 2018 at 1:46 pm


Loved reading this heartwarming post. Thanks for sharing!

2 | andrea tomkins

October 10th, 2018 at 1:42 pm


Thank you Tammy! I’m glad I wrote this one down. It was a very simple encounter but one I’d like to remember. :)

3 | Pamela Sharpe-Dovbniak

October 9th, 2018 at 11:51 pm



4 | andrea tomkins

October 10th, 2018 at 1:41 pm


Thanks Pamela!

5 | Molly

October 16th, 2018 at 9:27 pm


Being kind is the easiest thing in the world – thanks for the reminder ;-)

6 | barristers

September 16th, 2019 at 2:58 am


I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this blog.

Thank you, I will try and check back more often. How frequently you
update your web site?

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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