Bill Kirby: You can find a good deal while shopping for plants

·3 min read
Bill Kirby, Augusta Chronicle
Bill Kirby, Augusta Chronicle

"... the better angels of our nature."

– Abraham Lincoln

It's hard to doubt global warming when you see the world around you going to hell.

If you watch or read the news on a regular basis, you would suspect it's all just a warm-up act. Dictators start wars; politicians settle scores. Prices rise like summer temperatures.

Nobody accepts responsibility.

But if you take a moment to look carefully, you might see something different.

Last weekend I was at the hardware store nursery getting some flowers for a cemetery visit. It was crowded, but not bad. People who grow things, I've noticed, tend to be more patient.

I picked up some nice potted plants – bright yellow Asiatic lilies – then headed for the checkout lanes, taking the one that had the shortest line.

It stayed that way.

Two shoppers ahead was a very old man pushing a cart loaded with potting soil bags and other odds and ends. There was a walking cane hooked on his cart's handle and he moved slowly, using the cart for support.

His skin, sun-browned and cracked with wrinkles, resembled an old potato left too long in the back of a cupboard.

On his head was a faded ballcap that said "Veteran."

Suddenly, no one was in a hurry.

The cashier, speaking through a plexiglass shield, told him he owed $161 and some change. She was using a voice we all could hear because the old man had a set of the largest, plastic hearing aids I've seen in a while. They also didn't work very well.

He pulled a thick roll of cash from his pocket and began to count it out deliberately. I suspected he was trying to read her reaction to tell him when he'd given her enough.

The top bill was $100, the next was a $1, followed by a series of $1s. (Yes, this took a while.)

Nobody, however, pushed and nobody rushed. We all seemed to be rooting for him, allowing him the dignity to perform the simple task of buying bags of dirt.

Unfortunately, he ran out of $1s, and perceived he was still short. So he reached into his pocket and pulled out a big handful of change. Lots of it. Some silver. Many pennies. I think the clerk decided she needed to conclude the transaction, even if it wasn't exact.

"You still owe me $10," she said pleasantly, underestimating, I'm sure.

The old man wavered.

The shopper in front me reached for his wallet at the same time as I did, but we were too late.

Out of nowhere, a young man appeared. He wore a big earring and had the most beautiful, wavy hair this side of Hollywood, and he did something I did not expect. He plopped a $10 bill on the counter, leaned respectfully toward the old man's ear and said, "Thank you for your service."

Then he was gone like Superman saving the airliner.

The old man looked a little confused, but the cashier handed him his receipt, so he gathered himself and slowly began to push his cart toward the door.

We were all smiling, and the guy in front of me quickly paid for a bottle of plant food, then noticed the old man's cane had slipped off the cart and was propped against the counter.

"I'll get it to him," he told the clerk. "He probably needs help unloading the cart."

I paid quickly, too, but thought for a long time on the way home that things aren't always so bad. There's good, if we take time to notice.

Bill Kirby has reported, photographed and commented on life in Augusta and Georgia for 45 years.

This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Bill Kirby: There's bad news center stage, but good news can follow you

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