Not the Tomatoes!

Went to our local supermarket with hubby this afternoon. He knows that one of my favorite fruits to eat is the one we all think of as a vegetable; ripe, red, beautiful tomatoes. I’ll pick them up and eat them like apples; no full meal required. To consider them only an accompaniment to something else is not to understand their delectable heavenly glory.

There was a great display of them at the market today, and as I picked out some bananas at the other end of the produce counter, I watched hubby carefully choose the tomatoes for us (but really for me), gingerly putting them into a plastic bag one by one. Just watching his care with his choices put a big smile on my face.

Grocery shopping done, we arrive at the check stand and soon discover that our cashier is not a happy camper. No idea what it was, but by the time we arrived, whatever had set her off had cast a dark cloud over her entire countenance, and it was clearly affecting everyone else.

I watched as the two customers ahead of us quieted down and physically seemed to withdraw into themselves, visibly holding their breath in the hopes of finishing their transactions quickly, escaping any possible igniting of her seething wrath. To look at her was almost painful, and I couldn’t help but wonder just how long it had been since she’d last smiled.

It’s our turn, and hubby smiles at her and says, “Hello.”

She looks at him, still unsmiling, slightly lifts her head to just acknowledge that he said something to her, and starts to fling our items down the length of her check stand to a waiting bagger after she scans them. Corn on the cobb ” umm, okay. Oh no, not the bananas too! Yes, even the bananas get flung.

The tomatoes are next; and now unable to resist after all his care in selecting them, hubby reaches his hand out to grab the tomatoes the moment she’s scanned them so she can’t fling them down to certain bruising as she’s done with everything else.

He’s broken the spell. She looks up at him, as if she’s only seeing us for the first time, the tears start to come, and she says, “I’m so sorry, thank you for stopping me.”

Hubby responds, “It’s okay, you can do this. You can make whatever it is okay. I know you can.”

She smiles, the smile I was hoping would come, and in mere moments everything seems to be okay.

I wonder”
How long had this gone on?
How many other customers had been affected before we got there?
Was it just today, just with this one checker, or do others have days like this in that market?
Where was the manager charged with creating a great workplace? Could he (or she) possibly have missed seeing the darkening mood, the cautious customers, the flung food?
If not a manager, where was the co-worker to take notice, and to offer care?
Why did so many people choose to walk on the eggshells and not protect their tomatoes?

Please notice
. Just one employee can profoundly affect your business in so many ways.

From the archives; The papaya tree


  1. says

    Not only can just one employee spoil your business, but one kind act can save a life. Sounds like your husband saved far more than just tomatoes Rosa. Good for him.
    If we all cared enough to remind each other that it’s going to be okay, that we can make it through, this would be a far better world to live in. Until then, I’ll keep focusing on me, and trying to help keep the tomatoes from getting bruised.
    Thanks for the necessary reminder about the little things that make SUCH a big difference.

  2. says

    I just re-read my comment, and it didn’t turn out the way I meant it too. I meant I will focus on me doing the little things like your hubby, and not worry about the rest of the world doing them. I’ll throw the starfish back in the ocean, and make a difference to that starfish. Following your husband’s example is a great lesson for me this Sunday :)

  3. says

    Woah! I’m reading this post at the start of a new day and what a great reminder for me on 2 fronts:
    1) Because I am training long-term unemployed today (who consider themselves victims of the system), it’s so important that their first impression of me (viewed as an employee of the system, though I’m not) is a cheerful and compassionate one.
    2) That I look upon them with empathy as your husband did while actively intervening in their self-destructive habits.

  4. says

    Your comment was great Phil. Knowing you, I knew what you meant!
    Pete, sounds to me like you are an exceptional coach (which I have continually been learning about you, not just now!) who will be of great help to this organization. Your comment is so insightful: There is a big difference between being compassionate with those who may have a victim’s mentality, while holding them to a higher standard for themselves and not commiserating with them.

  5. says

    Most of us do have a tendency to look at intervention as not minding our own business, don’t you think Steve? What my husband achieved, was helping her achieve a shift, and then simply telling her she could take control; that he believed in her capacity. He didn’t have to intrude any further and make things uncomfortable for her. I was very proud of him.

  6. says

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