Sometimes You Just Don’t Know

Everyone has heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. It has become so cliche that in today’s society, it has lost much of its influence and is easily forgotten. This story was originally told to me three years ago by my high school psychology teacher, Mr. McAllister. However, it is one story I will probably never forget.

I was in a hurry, with places to go. I had just enough time to run to the grocery store and grab a few things. Rushing from aisle to aisle, I found everything I needed and turned towards the checkout counter. I scanned for the shortest line, seeking the quickest possible exit. I found my line and jumped in just before the other shoppers caught on and joined behind.

It was a perfectly executed shopping experience. I was next inline and I was going to be out of there in no time. However, this is where I realized I made a huge mistake. I just happened to jump in line with the most unprofessional cashier ever to operate a check out counter. As I stand there with my groceries, I begin to wonder who ever gave this cashier a job. She is just sitting there playing with the baby belonging to the lady in front of me. She has no respect for the fact that people are waiting for her, busy people who have places to be. As the line piles up behind me, she is seemingly lost in her own selfish little world, just her and that baby. Finally, she gives the baby back to her mother, finishes ringing up her groceries and gives her the receipt.

Finally! It is my turn to checkout and I will not let this act of selfishness and unprofessional-ism go unnoticed. For the sake of me and the rest of the line, I am going give her a piece of my mind. As I open my mouth to speak, she interjects, “I am so sorry about the wait. It is just that ever since my husband died, I have had to take up two shifts and that is the only time that I get to see my daughter.” Just like that, my entire perception of reality is shattered. I had nothing more to say and my five minute wait in line became trivial.

I love telling people this story because although it has a familiar, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover message.”, I feel as if it has a much greater impact. It tends to stick more. I hope that next time you look to judge other people you think about the woman working the checkout counter, take a step back and give that person the benefit of the doubt. It is important to realize that sometimes you just don’t know.

Did this story put the cliche “Don’t judge a book by its cover” message in a new light? Did it stop and make you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and thank you for reading.

Originally published at on April 3rd, 2013.

Co-Founder @pestotech | Using education and remote work to give everyone equal access to opportunity, regardless of where they were born.

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