Yesterday I went to pick up a few vegetables. I’m back on my vegetarian kick. After the sugar overload of the holidays, I’m sure my pancreas will heave a sigh of relief. As I puzzled over how to make the automatic cash accept the fact that I really, really wanted to buy a Savoy cabbage, I noticed two ladies at the next cash. They were short, one had a rather delicate air, set off by a head of pale curly hair. The other wore a hijab that closely covered her head. Her plump and serious face stood out against the pale green head covering. I had noticed them as I trundled around, gasping at the prices of fresh produce. The one with the curly hair seemed to be shepherding the other one around. We ended up at the automatic cash side by side. I always bring my own shopping bag and don’t always want to chat with the cashier. I like the satisfying bleep when I scan my own stuff. I like arranging the things in my bag the way I want them. I glanced over at the two ladies. The one with the hijab was giggling a little as she peered at the screen and the other one was explaining how it worked. It occurred to me at that moment that the obvious newcomer might be one of our Syrian refugees. There was no way of knowing, of course. There was something delighted and mystified in her way though that would not permit me to let the moment pass. Our eyes met and she shrugged at her own bewilderment. I could not resist a comment ( ah, familiar, my friends?).
” Funny, eh? We do the work but we don’t get paid!” She and her companion beamed and as I picked up my bag, the lady with the curly hair gave me a tiny wave.
I thought about them a lot yesterday. Who was the lady in the green hijab who had never seen a self service cash? What had she thought of our clean orderly supermarket and our vast parking lot, scoured by a gusty wind? Who was her companion? Somehow they looked like sisters. Just a little incident as I bought cabbage.