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Karma in the Check Out Line, and a recipe for Indian Veggie Curry

About a year ago, I opened a new business checking account. I went to the bank right across the street from my apartment for two reasons: 1. It’s right across the street from my apartment and 2. It’s a small, regional bank, not yet big enough to be the root of society’s problems.

I remember having kind of a busy day. I had a phone meeting. Jaimie had been working and rehearsing so we were going to spend a few minutes over lunch together. Since this was a small bank and no one was ever there, I figured I could be in and out in half an hour.

We all know what happens when you figure. It makes an ass out of you and me.

I told the teller what I was there to do and she sent me into an office. Five minutes later a woman named Mary walked in and greeted me. I told her my intentions and we started our journey together.

The hiccups started instantly. This wasn’t a personal checking account, it was a business checking account, so that was a new screen. I wasn’t using my social security number, I was using my new Tax ID number, so that was a different screen. Mary was new, she told me. She asked if I could bare with her for a minute. The person who usually answers her questions is at lunch so she’s figuring this out on her own and she hates computers, they are meant to make our lives easier but I swear they just make them harder, she said.

Another hiccup. She goes and gets the manager. He is new as well. Apparently he’s been getting secret help by this person who is off at lunch and in my head I wondered why someone hadn’t put this person in charge of everything.

Thirty minutes turned into forty five. Forty five into an hour. I realized why people go to Bank of America and Chase. Sure they fuck everything and ruin global economies, but at least they let me get on with my day. An hour turned into an hour and a half. Gone was my time with Jaimie. That was cool, we’ll see each other eventually I suppose. Now my phone meeting was started to be threatened. I was steaming on the inside, but being a good southern boy I was repressing it. Hiding my rage behind a half smile and checking my phone every seven seconds.

After about five minutes of us waiting for the computer to load, sitting in silence, Mary said, "I'm really sorry." It wasn't Mary the bank employee, it was Mary the human.

I looked up at her, and my rage turned to pity. She was doing a half smile thing too, but on the inside I knew she was crumbling. She wanted this over more than I did.

What a silent asshole I was being. I knew exactly what she was feeling. Not in a bank, of course, but waiting tables, when the kitchen is taking forever, and the people in your section are stabbing you with their eyes. I know what it’s like to be new and not know where anything is and ruin someone’s lunch. I started to imagine this woman as someone’s wife and mother and friend. I imagined her as my own mother, and how I would like some 39 year old who thinks he’s in some big hurry to treat her.

“I’ve been there,” I said. “There is nothing worse than being new at a job.”

The relief in the room was immense. All of a sudden we weren’t worker and customer. We were two humans trying to get this shit over with.

I told her I had a phone call in a few minutes, and that I could come back tomorrow and we could finish this up. As soon as I said that something on the computer must have gone through because the printer started printing and my new Business Checking Account was open.

We walked out of her office. She thanked me for being so patient. I hadn’t been patient. We had each just had a moment of recognition. Mary and I gave each other a hug in the lobby, and that moment quickly faded into the recesses of my memory.

Until yesterday.


I believe in rules. The ones I agree with of course. Rules, and our mutual agreement to follow them, are what separate us from pure chaos. They make the world livable. We agree that a red sign with the letters S T O P on it means that we should bring our cars to a halt, and we do it. We eat at a restaurant, they bring us a slip of paper with a number on it and we agree to pay it. No one is forcing us, except for our collective decision to do these things for the benefit of the whole.

Yesterday, I broke one of these rules. A rule I really, really, REALLY believe in.

It was 7pm and I was at Publix, per usual. I was feeling good, but a little tired. I had just walked three laps around the .6 mile trail near my apartment. That was more than I had done in a week. I had only planned on doing one lap, but I got to the top of that tiny little hill and I wasn’t too out of breath, so I decided to take advantage of the situation and do two more. Also there was a little league baseball practice happening, and the coach was yelling and throwing his hat when the players screwed up, which the did every play because they’re 10, and I was finding his outbursts amusing.

After my walk I went to Publix to get what I needed for the Indian Veggie Curry I was making (it was amazing- recipe to follow.) As I headed to the check out lines, one of the cashiers smiled at me, indicating that she was open and ready, HOWEVER, she was manning the 10 items or less line and I had at least 17 things in my reusable tote.

I know. What is a human to do? The other lines were full. I was tired from my walk. And starving, with at least 45 minutes worth of cooking ahead of me. I tentatively walked down the aisle, told the cashier I had slightly more than 10 items, but I promised it wouldn’t take long. “I’ve heard that before,” the sassy cashier said as she stubbed our her cigarette and started scanning my groceries. I’m kidding! Obviously. This is Publix, not the Winn Dixie.

This wonderful, innocent cashier who had definitely never smoked a cigarette in her life was about three items into the seventeen I had placed on the conveyer belt when a woman walked up behind me. A woman with only 1 item. She saw the things I had and quickly did the math in her head. I didn’t belong there. I was breaking the rules. I was just bringing this world one step closer to chaos.

There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t stop the cashier and let the woman go ahead of me. That would have been ridiculous. There was nothing this woman could do but wait. And there was nothing I could do but accept the karmic consequences of my action.

I turned to the woman to say I was sorry. That’s when I noticed her name tag. It was Mary from the bank across the street from my house. Now I was the one making her wait.

I hadn’t seen her since we hugged that day in the lobby.

I was going to say something to Mary, reintroduce myself, perhaps relive that fateful afternoon. But these Publix cashiers are quick. She checked outed the 17 items like they were 8 at the most. So I decided to let that karmic moment go.

I thanked the cashier and headed to my car, letting that moment flutter away on the wings of time. Never to be known, never to be thought of again.


Indian Veggie Curry:

Chop up ginger, garlic, onions. Cook for a few. Toss in 4 tbs coriander, 2 tbs cumin, 1 tbs turmeric, 1 tbs cayenne. Stir and cook for another minute.

Put in one can lite coconut milk. 2 tbs tomato paste. Two cups veggie or chicken broth. Full disclosure- I forgot broth, so I used two cups of water and three chicken bullion. I’M SORRY! SUE ME!

Let that all boil. Add a dash of cinnamon. Fine, 2 dashes. Then add the veggies! Sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, one big diced tomato. Put a lid on and cook for until the potatoes are tender. Toss in a can of chick peas. Salt and pepper it of course. Serve over rice with lime juice and fresh cilantro.

It was the best curry I’ve ever made.


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