Priestess of the Harvest
Every Sunday she's there, typically on register ten but sometimes register nine or eleven.
Her hair's streaked with grey, betraying her age but not so much to resign her to elderhood quite yet.
Her accent is thick and Eastern European; I don't claim to know where from, since there's plenty of diversity in that region and it's not nice to lump folks together. Yet her words are clearly enunciated and her vocabulary is extensive, speaking from the experience of one who's spent time with those who had to learn English as their second language. It's a shitty language to have to learn. I count myself lucky I was born with it.
She wears thick glasses like me, which lend themselves to the caricature I'm sure people paint of her.
I watch the other customers interact with her in frustration. Shoppers aren't the most considerate souls. They're not thinking about the folks around them, they're thinking about what's in their basket, their cupboards, where they're heading next, what they couldn't get, what they managed to get, etc. Moreover most folks are too lazy to abide by the strict rituals that get others through the day. They don't realize how lucky they are not to need those boundaries to hold themselves together.
Right now though, I'm all about the rituals. I have no gods, but the fact that this woman still stands here to serve me in times of mass panic makes her a priestess to me. I will gladly bow and make supplication at her mechanized altar in whatever fashion she preaches. I stand behind the painted symbol, waiting for her to prepare to bless my offerings.
Maybe because I've interacted politely before her manner with me is more relaxed, but no less critical. I've memorized the steps and requests: wait until she's wiped down the converyor, stay at the end of the belt and let the food go to her, hold the discount card up to the glass but not too high because the scanner beam isn't good for my eyes, use the sanitizer before and after touching the keypad, don't reach on either side, wait until she places the items on the end away from her to heft them into my cart. I stay submissive, despite the stress in my shoulders of having to navigate through a maze of one-way aisles with fogging spectacles and a short wishlist I barely got filled. I know from listening intently through mine and others' interactions that her words aren't just for her own protection; she worries about me (and my irradiated pupils) too. Hence I don't bristle at her mothering, like I see many other customers do when being treated like petulant children of the goddess. I just nod quietly and submit.
[On an aside: I've noticed as much as Christians tend to think of themselves as sheep, they don't follow their community shepherds very well. Maybe stubborn, bleating goats would be a more apt analogy for them.]
She manages to politely chat through thick fabric layers and accent about what I managed to find today, the interesting brands of soap I've discovered out of necessity, how I'm using the assortment of vegetables I cobbled together for meals, and ends by bestowing words of protection on me, reminding me to wash my hands outside the door. I accept her grace and my bounty, thanking her as I go.
Whatever gods she believes in, I pray they continue to protect her so I can ask for her blessings again next Sunday.