Small Moments: Turtles
Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.
She was the slowest checkout clerk we’d ever met.
It was Saturday afternoon and Jennie and I were in line at Target, ready to pull the trigger on a 21-piece haircutting kit by Wahl Home Products, the #1 Clipper Brand in America. I’d had enough of paying strangers to touch my hair, and since all the haircuts I’d ever gotten looked equally mediocre on me, I decided to cut my losses and stick to a buzzcut until further notice.
Back to the glacial checkout clerk. Her name was Michelle. Late fifties to early sixties. Dyed red hair. Wearing those glasses with pointed frames you expect to find on a substitute teacher from the 1960s. We’d picked Michelle because her line was the shortest, and because there was a battle raging in the self-checkout area, pitting the mental acuity of the average human against machine. It looked like the machines were winning.
There was only one other person ahead of us in line. Judging by her valley girl body language, she was getting extremely irritated with Michelle.
Michelle’s problem (if you want to call it that) wasn’t laziness or inattention. Just the opposite. She rang up every item with great ceremony, as if she were lighting the torch to the Summer Olympics. When she wrapped clothing in paper to prevent wrinkles, she did so lovingly, her eyes glazed over slightly, as if she was thinking about her grandchildren on Christmas morning.
Valley Girl pays and leaves in a huff, off to a $5,000 yoga retreat somewhere to find her Zen.
Jennie and I were next in line:
“Long day?” asks Jennie. My wife is the queen of conversation starters.
“Absolutely,” says Michelle as she slowly reaches for our items. “A very long day.”
“Busy, isn’t it?”
She nods. “It tends to pick up in the afternoons. People scurry in after lunch.”
Then she pauses for a moment, before uttering the most stunning sentence I’ve ever heard at Target.
“It’s good to stay busy,” she says, mainly to herself. “When you're busy, the day just turtles by.”
That’s the moment we realized that Michelle wasn’t an inefficient checkout clerk, she was a gift. A gift that keeps on giving. I couldn't believe my ears:
She was using turtle as a verb.
In the context of her sentence, turtle meant fast.
If turtle meant fast in her book, what animal would she use for slow?
Does she, on a subconscious level, identify with the turtle?
When she casts the Patronus Charm to fend off the Dementors, does it take the form of a silver turtle?
The possibilities turtle onto infinity.
And that’s when even I’m convinced that there’s magic in the smallest things.