Patience, Come to the Front

The checkout cashier in Lane 3 cranes her neck and looks past me to Lane 2 as I dig in my purse for my wallet. The lines that day are several shopping carts deep. Her co-worker over in the neighboring lane is busy scanning frozen foods on the conveyor belt, but the Lane 3 cashier calls out to her and manages to get her attention.

"Hey," says Lane 3, seeking to alleviate the demands of accumulating shoppers ready to check out, "is Patience back there?"

Patience. An interesting name you don't hear much these days.

"I think so," the Lane 2 cashier answers, distractedly.

Lane 3 picks up the store-wide intercom and steadily intones in her most professional-sounding intercom voice, "Patience, come to the front, please. Patience, please come to the front."

I almost told my Lane 3 girl at that moment that I wanted to go home and write about what she just said, but I refrained. Too much profundity to explore in the time it would take to swipe my card and grab my groceries from the plastic-bag carousel.

If only I had an intercom to summon patience to the front, in the very literal sense, in those times when it eludes me.

When the kids are fighting and the baby is crying. When homework is tough and I can't find the words to explain it for the twentieth time. When I am ready to go out the door but nobody else is. When harsh words want to fly out of my lips. When a new life chapter needs to start but the page just won't turn. 

Patience, please come to the front. Come to the front in me. Don't hang back when you're most needed, when the line of shopping carts in my life that hold all my stresses and responsibilities is backed up. Patience, come to the front so that you are clearly evident, so that the ones I love the most can recognize you in me - the ones who really, really notice when you're absent, more than anyone else. Come to the front on those evenings at 6:00 p.m. when everybody is tired, and everybody's blood sugar has dropped, and everybody is all prickly and cranky with each other. Come to the front when I burn dinner and have to start over. When I pick up shoes from the kitchen floor for the 5,000th time. And while you're at it, just go ahead and send Exasperation and Irritation to the BACK. The way-back. Out with the trash. They're fired.

Just get up here. Front and center.

And to the real Patience, who must have made her way to the front that day, who probably lives in my little town, and who may even see this post - I like your name.

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