Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Look Up

I just returned from "Slashies", our pet appellation for the Rosauers/Huckleberries grocery store nearby. The dogs needed a walk, and I needed a cartoon of milk, so we collaborated. The store was as busy as I've seen it, with long lines at all the registers, including the express lanes. I took my place in a queue behind a full cart of groceries, near enough to a cashier as to feel a glimmer of hope.

The cashier was working very quickly, trying to be polite while focusing on the stream of groceries flowing past the laser reader like late-winter runoff over Spokane Falls. She was slightly red in the face, with one lock of hair falling onto her face so as to provide a target for her exaggerated exhalations. I heard her tell the customer ahead of me that the store had been jam-packed all day.

I was reminded of a long-ago Sunday at Dollen's Market in Indianapolis when seemingly everyone in that fair city decided they needed just one or two items. As usual, we had but two people staffing the little family market. There was a line outside the front door waiting for us to open, and another one at the solitary cash register at closing time. In between, I spent most of eight hours with my eyes rarely focusing beyond the price tags on the groceries and the worn numbers on the cash register.

At the end of the day I looked up, and became somewhat disoriented. My eyes seemed reluctant to adjust to a new focal length. I remembered solemn childhood warnings against crossing your eyes, lest they remain stuck like that....

I asked the "Slashies" cashier how long it had been since she had looked up. Smiling, she said it had been awhile, and that even on that previous occasion she realized it had been too long. She thanked me for my patronage, and I cheerily quipped, "Look up!"

This is no childhood tale, though perhaps an object lesson. Literally or figuratively it is all too common for us to get our vision stuck on the task before us. It may be important to focus our attention for a time in order to be productive, or to discern the minutia, important or otherwise, of our current occupation. But disorientation is a danger, and lack of perspective imperils our diligent efforts. The alternative isn't difficult. Remember to look up once in a while. You don't want your eyes getting stuck like that, do you?

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