You're in a store shopping for new towels. It's a simple adventure; you look at the colors, the thicknesses, the prices and make a decision. No problem.You gather up your choice and head for the checkout line. which for some reason is abnormally long.
The woman manning the cash register is taking an incessant amount of time to total things up; she's new, perhaps. Or distracted. Whatever it is, she's moving like a sailboat on a windless lake. The humans in front and behind of you are beginning to get rattled; they are all whispering to each other about the slowness. You are commenting, too, silently, to yourself. It's hard to believe that it could take so much time to check out a few items, but it is, and you don't like it. You look at your watch, you shift the towels irritably in your arms; you worry about making it home in time to finish cleaning the kitchen.
More long moments pass, and the line is still moving in slow motion; now you are beginning to feel actual heat rising behind your eyes. Your mouth is tense; your teeth are clenched in a gritty protest at the unseemly waiting period. The conversational hum is getting nastier; patience is evaporating like dew under August heat.
Then you catch a quick glimpse of the cashier; you notice she is pale with uneasiness. Faint droplets of sweat glisten from her cheek; she knows she is performing below standards and is frightened. The more she becomes frightened, the more she fumbles. She looks up furtively at the customers, now hostile, and you can almost hear her heart beating fast.
With this one glimpse, you soften completely. She's afraid! you say to yourself, and your instinct now is to put her at ease. Although you're three people back in line, you call out some cheerful remark to her, something funny. She looks up gratefully, smiles, and returns to her labors.
And when it's your turn, you smile and say, "Must be crazy today, all these people." and she nods. You tell her you like her blouse. She smiles, bites her lip. She totals you up, you give her the money, and thank her for helping you. "You have a nice day," she says, and she is smiling.
Inside this rare moment the two of you are suddenly friends, and as you leave you notice the previous anger has disappeared as surely as the moon vanishes at dawn.