I was standing in line at Kroger’s the other evening when I was startled by a young man reaching around my legs to grab a couple of energy drinks out of a cooler. I jumped like a scared rabbit and let out a little shriek.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Mam,” he said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
I looked in his face. I could tell he was a nice guy. He really hadn’t meant to scare me. He was just in a hurry.
“That’s okay,” I replied, and watched as he rejoined his family at the next register: a pleasant faced wife, slightly plump, her dark hair pulled in a tight knot on top of her head, and a couple of handsome, curly headed sons who waited, patient and still, while their parents pulled out their wallets and counted out several bills.
As I unloaded my buggy, I watched all four, curiously, out of the corner of my eye. “I’ll never see them again,” I thought, as they filed out of the store. “I’ll never know any more about them.”
As I stood waiting for the cashier to ring up my own order, I had the momentary sense that people everywhere are like pinballs randomly pinging around a giant cosmic arcade. We collide on occasion, as I did with that nice young man with the good looking family. But then, we inevitably return to our own little self contained worlds, each of us having our own unique and mostly unshared perceptions and experiences.
Wheeling my cart through the parking lot, I watched cars pulling in and out, most loaded with people I’ll never know. “There’re over seven billion of us careening around this planet,” I thought, “and not a one of us will ever experience exactly the same day. We’re just pinballs,” I told myself. “Randomly colliding pinballs.”