The Pondering Grapefruit
a blog of moments
The other day I went to Star Market, a grocery store just a block from my apartment, to get cleaning supplies. I also bought 5 mangoes because there was a deal to get give for $5. There was a senior woman in front of me who was buying one pack of 12 Bounty paper towels. As I stood and waited in line, I watched the cashier ring up the towels--the price popped up as $21,09.
The woman in front of me looked bug eyed at the screen. "That's not right," she said. "They're supposed to be $10.99"
It went back and forth a couple of times between the woman and the cashier, both insisting that they were right. The woman kept shaking her head, muttering, "There's no way that's right, no way that's right." Finally, the girl behind the cashier said she would go check the aisle.
After she left, I remarked to the woman, "Yeah, that seems pretty expensive for paper towels." She seemed so upset over the price discrepancy in her head, and seemed to appreciate the solidarity.
When the girl came back, she explained that the paper towels would be $10.99 if she buys two of them. The explanation seemed clear to me--but it seemed to confuse the woman even more. She then thought that if she gets two, then she would get two for just $10,99, and not each one for $10.99.
He eyes, her mouth, her entire face seemed to about to burst with confusion, frustration, and embarrassment for holding up the line. I really wanted to tell her that I did not mind at all, and that it was in fact quite the opposite: I really felt for her and wish that she wasn't so upset.
This moment brought me back to what I learned in my meditation retreat: that suffering comes from holding onto things too tightly. This lady could not let go of her idea that the paper towels would only cost $10.99. Even when she was explained otherwise, that number was still imprinted in her, and she could not let go.
Eventually, the cashier, bless her, she was also eating a bar of white chocolate and did not give any fucks at all that her customers might find it a bit icky that their receipts would be covered in chocolate and spit (and I admired her boldness), decided to give the paper towels to the woman for just $10.99.
My mind was blown at that second. I had no idea that she could do that. I then wondered why she didn't do that right away, it would have made things so much easier, and then I realized that it would create problems if all customers think that they can get deals so easily, with just a little fuss. And then I admired the cashier for having a sense of justice and compassion for the woman. That is a true, noble example of a cashier, holding the fort at the transition line for customers to exit with their new belongings, a sometimes delicate act of judgment. A victory for the woman with the Bounty paper towels!
The woman was more than elated. I was happy for her too, and happy also when the cashier began ringing up my items. I bought a huge bottle of Lysol spray, hand soap, and Clorox wipes because my apartment got quite dirty over the weekend when I was away. Part of the package when you live with four other men I guess. I never thought my life would end up this way, but I wouldn't trade it for any other thing. They are sweet and respectable, and come from the most diverse backgrounds I could ever imagine. But that's a story for another time.
When I walked out of the market and through the parking lot, I saw the woman loading the paper towels into her car. She drove all the way here with the sole intention of getting paper towels. Questions ran through my head: did she live alone? Did her partner pass already? Is she short on money? What does her kitchen look like? How far was the drive?
I felt a lot of love for this woman, and a lot of joy that she got her towels. But mixed in there was some sense of poignancy, knowing that she was not able to experience the peace of mind that comes with letting go, and if it was with something as small as paper towels, I wonder what else she holds onto.
In general, I have been thinking more about the things that I hold onto, and noticing what things other people hold onto. Often, it is notions of happiness: I will be happy if I do this, have that, have this person. And once we have those things we hold onto them in ranges of tightness. I can't speak for others, but I know that I've held onto, both long term and short term.
For me, I've held onto many toxic notions throughout my life: this sense of mindless achieving, feeling that accomplishment leads to self worth; holding onto positive ratings from others, that I need people to like me; that my face needs to be clear and beautiful to be pretty. And so often it's many small things: at work I tend to fixate on one random small detail or task that needs to get done, and on which everything seems to hinge upon when in reality it's not urgent at all. And then I laugh at myself for being so silly.
The best thing about letting go is perhaps having more compassion for others when you recognize the mindsets that are holding them back. From the moment we are babies, we like to grasp. It is a universal human thing. And adulthood, it seems, is learning to loosen that grip.
What are the things you're holding onto that are preventing you from seeing clearly? What are the Bounty's in your lives?
About this Blog
I have no idea how to describe what my writing is about. I just write. I post when I can, which can be weekly or monthly depending on where the universe is taking me. As for the Grapefruit, my Vietnamese nickname, Buoi, means grapefruit.