That Wonderful Life

I used to think that we each have a guardian angel, watching over us. After last week, I am certain of it. But now, I also know something else.

Sometimes we share the same angel.

Smugly proud of myself that I had finished my holiday shopping unusually early, I dashed into the supermarket to take advantage of the weekly specials.

Unfortunately, so did everybody else. The lines at the checkout appeared endless but, being the trooper that I have become, I forged my way to the end of a line, which led me to the back of the store.

Time dragged on and my line, as well as the ones on either side of me, didn’t seem to be moving. It might have been the season, or maybe just out of boredom, but the man in front of me, whose name I later learned was Max, struck up a conversation with the people on all sides of him, including me.

We remarked that we were buying many of the same items, which made sense since they were the advertised specials. Before long, we had created a network, as such, consisting of four lines, at least nine shopping carts and 19 people.

Max observed that the lady to my right had eight 12-packs of Pepsi. But there was a limit of two at the advertised price; the rest would be at the regular price. And the butter deal was great, as long as you only needed only two pounds. An elderly lady said that she was coming back two more times to be able to get the six pounds of butter she needed to do her holiday baking.

Perhaps we had too much time on our hands, but it quickly became a challenge for us all to find ways that we could take advantage of the best deals. We began offering to purchase limited items for each other, to be exchanged after the sales were completed.

Oh, come on! I know I’m not the only one to ever do this. Admit it. We’ve all been there. You buy the limit, and then you make your reluctant significant other or embarrassed children go through the line and buy more so you can get the special.

But what about those who didn’t bring an extra person along? It didn’t seem fair to Max and, we had to admit, we agreed. By the time we were all done, we had traded Pepsi, butter, chocolate chips, cream cheese and any other small special items we could to help each other.

None of us had ever met before that afternoon, yet we were consumed by a peculiar form of “blind trust.” You can call it whatever you want; if it had been any other time of year, I don’t think it would have happened.

The exchange outside the store was confusing, humorous and heart-warming. Some of us weren’t even sure if we had gotten all of our money straightened out, but it didn’t seem to be that important. I did notice that I ended up with two extra bags of chocolate chips. I think they belonged to Max but, when I searched through our little crowd, I couldn’t find him. Nobody seemed to know where Max went. That also explained why I came up a little short on the money-end. But that was OK; I love chocolate chip cookies.

I’d like to say that we all got together later at somebody’s house to toast new-found friendships, or at least exchanged phone numbers. We didn’t. But that didn’t matter. For us, the world somehow became a little smaller for awhile. We had made some new friends and we knew we’d all be telling the same story to our families and friends around the Christmas tree.

Walking to my car, I spotted Max. He chugged past me in a 1989 Chevy Malibu, complete with rusted fenders and black smoke belching from the exhaust pipe. As I stood there, I swore I heard the distinct sound of a bell ringing.

I remembered what they said in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life;” that the sound of a bell ringing meant an angel had gotten his wings. The others in the parking lot said it was just the sound of Max’s tailpipe scraping the pavement as he turned out of the parking lot onto the road.

But I knew better.

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