Don’t often think about shopping at the (fairly) small Jewel store on Madison though it is halfway from work to my house on Humphrey. But last week I had a request for something beyond the usual White Hen realm and stopped at the Jewel.

I like this store. It’s the right size and the handful of times I’ve shopped there people have always been friendly. Does not seem to be the universal experience, however, as when I mentioned my excursion at the office I was derided and jeered, never a good thing.

Anyhow, two Jewel observations, the first being the reason I had mentioned my shopping trip at the office in the first place. Here at WJ, particularly in our Chicago Parent sales office, we have faced a grim month of extended illnesses. Oh, the coughing and the hacking and the fevers. And, the germs. So the women of CP sales have gone to germ warfare. They disinfect and disinfect. The phones, the tables, the everything. The sales office smells like a hospital ward.

So I walk into the Jewel and there’s the placard near the door urging me to protect myself and my family by taking the proffered disinfectant wipes (Jewel brand) to towel off the handle of my shopping cart. I think this is absurd. My colleagues see it as good old prudence.

Ask Amy in the Saturday Tribune urged general hand washing sanitation but warned of obsessive behavior in the battle against germs. Amen Amy.

Second observation, and I don’t know if there is a racial piece to this or just a generational one.

I was in the check out lane just behind a warm, dignified and aging black woman. The cashier was a middle-aged white woman and the bagger was a, maybe 19-year-old African-American girl.

Pleasantries were exchanged as the transaction unfolded and then as the young woman handed over the two plastic sacks of groceries she said, as it seemed she was well-trained to say, “Thank you, ma’am.” The older woman took her groceries, made eye contact with the girl and said, “You’re welcome, hon.”

It was a sweet and unexpected moment, as we are all trained these days to not be personal, to not use those old, affectionate, connecting phrases.

I looked at the girl to see if she’d react and slowly she did. First, there was this little head dip, then she made eye contact, and then there was this small, shy, sheepish smile.

Being recognized and appreciated is always a good and affirming thing. Even, and especially, in a small space like a checkout line.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...