A tale of two Elvises
Originally published on May 3, 2014
This afternoon I finally cleaned out my closet and exchanged winter clothes with my spring and summer attire. What a breath of fresh air to see shades of pink and sky blue, a plethora of pastels, and gauzy dresses again! As I do every year, the stuff I no longer wanted was boxed up and taken to our local Saver's store.
I've been thrift shopping for years...ever since I moved back from California and taught preschool. Buying clothes at full price when I knew my sweaters and pants would be exposed to paint, crayons, markers, and Play-Doh (not to mention tears, snot, and other things I won't write here) seemed like an extravagance. Now I always shop there for clothes and a host of other treasures. Where else can I find Coldwater Creek, Christopher Banks, and Talbots clothing at drop dead prices?
When I was teaching a knitting class a few years ago, one of my students asked where I found my purse. When I told her that I was an avid thrift shopper, she looked aghast.
"Why would you admit to buying things there?" she asked.
I shrugged. "Because it leaves me more money for more important things like gasoline and groceries." And then I winked. "And of course, more sock yarn."
I always find a great bargain at Savers...especially this time of year and today was no exception. The 30% discount coupon I received from donating would expire soon, so I snapped up a couple of yoga shirts and a lovely blouse. As I walked toward the checkout, I noticed only one register was open and a little old lady was unpacking her cart very slowly. With each item, she discussed its merits, then pondered if she should keep it or have the cashier toss it into a pile to restock.
I waited with fascination as the young man patiently helped her while the lady pulled two boxes from her cart. "Now which one should I keep?" she asked. "I'm not sure which one I like best."
The cashier put down the hand-held scanner and leaned closer. Imagine my delight in watching a kid who couldn't have been more than twenty-five, both of his arms covered with tattoos and with enough ear and facial piercings to rival Lenny Kravitz discuss the merits of two Elvis dolls with a woman dressed from head to toe in mis-matched polyester, her hair a vivacious shade of bluish gray, and her shopping cart piled high with treasures for her grandchildren ranging from books to a Snow White doll. Even though they were from vastly different generations, the two of them were absolutely adorable...as if they were in cahoots to decide which delicacy they should order at a nice restaurant.
"Well, this one has a guitar and is in better shape," the cashier said softly.
"And this one has a microphone," the lady replied. "Well, I do have a 30% off coupon. Let me think about it."
Time wore on as the lively discussion continued. Finally the manager asked the cashier to call another employee to the front. By this time, several more people were waiting with armfuls of secondhand treasures, so when another line opened, I deferred to the woman behind me. Eager to see which Elvis the lady would choose, I said over my shoulder, "You go ahead."
"Are you sure?" she asked. "Thanks!"
"Of course," I nodded, then turned back to the scene unfolding before me. The manager was busy organizing a return rack and gave me kind smile which I returned. We're all going to be her age someday, our mutual acknowledgement seemed to say. Better to be kind than fast.
By the time the lady had made her decision, the tally came to $29.24. "I'll give you $30.00 but I want to get rid of some change," she said. Then onto another discourse about how she had collected almost all of the state quarters and she didn't want to give those away. A few minutes later, her transaction complete, the woman beamed at the cashier and said, "Thanks for being patient with me. I know I can be so slow!"
"No problem at all," the cashier replied. "Come back soon."
When it was finally my turn, he said to me, "Sorry about the wait."'
"It's fine...really," I said. "Some customers take a little longer."
"No, I'm apologizing for myself," he explained. "I just started and am learning the new register."
"It's all good," I said. "I'd rather you go slow and take your time...learning new things can take a while. Is it your first day?"
"My third," he said.
"Well, good luck," I smiled, taking my receipt. "I'm sure I'll see you again...I shop here often."
"Well, that's great!" he beamed, the silver lip rings pulling his smiled more broadly.
"I'll look for your line next time."
As I walked toward the door, in darted the little old lady, making a beeline for the cashier. "You won't believe it," she said sadly. "I locked my keys in my car!"
"We'll help you out, ma'am," he said kindly.
"Oh, thank you!" she sighed.
And as I headed out to the parking lot, I knew for certain she was in good hands.
Yes, I always find a great deal at Savers, but I rarely bargain for what I experienced today. To witness two very different people connect over a couple of Elvis dolls and do so with unabashed authenticity lifted my spirits, allowed me to see compassion in action, and gave me a sweet story to share with you.
So which Elvis did that sweet old lady choose?
"Oh, to heck with it," she said with a giggle. "I'll take them both."