Pretty Good

He was loading my grocery bags. I’ll call him Michael. He was early twenties, wearing an apron. He has Down syndrome.

“How are you today?” he said.

“Pretty good,” said I.

“So am I!” he said. “I’m doing pretty good, too!”

I smiled. “How about that.”

The cashier was dutifully scanning my groceries, sliding them into the bagging area. Michael was loading my plastic bag slowly. And I mean extremely slowly.

One. Item. At. A. Time.

He was an artist. He packed my first bag like it was going into the Smithsonian.

“I’m trying to load it just right,” Michael said. “I’m supposed to take my time bagging. My manager said not to hurry. I used to rush it. But now I don’t rush it anymore. I go slow. Really slow. Like this.”

He placed a box of Cheez-Its into a bag so gently he might as well have been handling a live grenade.

Eventually, we were standing around waiting on him to finish bagging. I had already paid, but Michael was still packing my first bag, moving at about the same pace as law school.

The bagging area was still brimming with groceries and there was a long line of customers accumulating in the checkout lane behind us, wearing aggravated looks on their pinched and sour faces.

There are two kinds of people in this world, those who slow down when they see a yellow light, and those who speed up. These customers were the latter.

The cashier asked Michael if he wanted help bagging to speed things up.

“No, thank you,” he said, placing toothpaste into the bag carefully. “I’m good.”

“But people are waiting,” the cashier said.

So Michael took a moment to smile and wave at everyone.

After what seemed like four or five presidential administrations he finished loading my first bag. He placed the bag into my cart. “There!” he announced, dusting his hands.

One bag down. Fifty to go.

The cashier said, “Michael, there’s a long line waiting, we need to hurry.”

“I can’t hurry,” said Michael. “We’re NOT supposed to hurry. We don’t rush. That’s what the manager told me. Never rush it. ‘Don’t rush it, Michael,’ that’s what he told me. So I’m not rushing it. You go ask him, that’s what he’ll say to you. Don’t rush it.”

“Michael…”

“Last time I rushed it I got in trouble, and I’m not getting in trouble again, so I’m not gonna rush it, I’m gonna…”

“Okay, okay,” she said.

So she flipped on her aisle light, which began to blink. She told the shoppers to find another checkout lane. This was going to take a while.

The disgruntled customers shot their disgusted glares in our direction.

And thus it was, we watched a master at work. My bags were the most meticulously, well-crafted, perfectly packed grocery bags in the Twenty-Second State. He placed each bag into my cart one at a time.

When Michael finally finished he asked if I wanted help out to my car. At first, I was going to say no thank you, but I figured, why not? It’s not every day you meet a craftsman who takes pride in his work.

“Sure,” I said.

Michael pushed my cart out to the parking lot and we talked. I learned a lot about him.

He told me that he loves this job because it is fun. He told me he has a cat who is crazy but also fun. He told me about how he is going to save up money to buy professional sound equipment so that he can be a wedding DJ someday because DJs are super fun. He likes rap music, which can be fun if they don’t cuss too much.

He likes chicken. He likes Jolly Ranchers. He likes it when everyone sings together before baseball games, which is fun. His favorite sport is baseball because it’s also fun. But then so is soccer. And come to think of it, pretty much all the other sports, too.

He also has a new phone, which he showed to me. The screen’s background was a picture of himself posing with a woman who I assume is his mother. They were hugging each other and laughing in the photo.

“Is that your mom?” I said.

“Oh, yes,” he said.

“What’s she like?”

He stared at the screen. “She is really pretty.”

Michael helped me load groceries into my truck and treated my bags with his trademarked tenderness. Before we left each other’s company we shook hands, I asked him to give me some parting words before I drove away.

He pointed a finger at me and said, “Don’t rush it.”

An artist, I tell you.

39 comments

  1. Buddy Taylor - May 14, 2022 7:02 am

    Truer words have never been spoken! Foood one Sean!

    Reply
  2. Debbie g - May 14, 2022 7:58 am

    Ahhh if we all would take the time to slow down and enjoy each other. Love to all

    Reply
  3. 🇿🇦🇿🇦Norma Den - May 14, 2022 8:15 am

    Excellent advice. Watch the Norwegian singer SISSEL on YouTube singing SLOW DOWN. It will blow you away. We’re all in too much of a rush these day, at the beck & call of phones, cold calls, traffic etc. yes “Slow Down”

    Reply
  4. Sonya Tuttle - May 14, 2022 10:17 am

    Thank you for being patient.

    Reply
  5. Cara - May 14, 2022 10:51 am

    I know Michael was beaming from a job well done. I think Michael and others with Downs are angels here on earth. I have worked with them and I am convinced of that. You are a kind man Sean.

    Reply
  6. Phil Evans - May 14, 2022 11:08 am

    I needed Michael’s advice. Beautiful story.

    Reply
  7. Joy Jacobs - May 14, 2022 11:34 am

    Some days someone just needs to tell you “don’t rush”. And we need to listen. ❤️

    Reply
  8. Lisa - May 14, 2022 11:48 am

    I loved this one. I worked with special needs kids for many years and it always pained me to observe people being impatient and irritated and acting superior to them. Thank you for your kindness to Michael and for not rushing through your day! <3

    Reply
  9. Ann - May 14, 2022 12:00 pm

    One of my favorites yet!!!! Don’t rush it, Sean!!!!

    Reply
  10. Karen - May 14, 2022 12:12 pm

    That is great advice from Michael. He is a wise young man.

    Reply
  11. Tom - May 14, 2022 12:36 pm

    God bless the store manager who gave Michael a job! I pray that they can work things out to make both Michael and the customers happy!!

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  12. AL - May 14, 2022 12:46 pm

    He sounds like Johnny the Bagger. A true story. Down syndrome young man is a bagger at a grocery store. He was at the end of the line, a bagger. So what could he do to improve customer service. He with his Dad’s help created on his computer a quote for each day, lots of them printed off and cut so that he could place a quote of the day into the customer’s bag as they left. Well, you know the rest of the story. The lines at his checkout station were extremely long but he customers didn’t mind waiting just so they could get Johnny’s quote of the day. Michael sounds like he is another Johnny. Just trying his best so that the customer’s stuff would be safe, secure and unbroken it the bags. Take a moment and engage with them as Sean did. Might make your day!

    Reply
  13. flkatmom - May 14, 2022 12:50 pm

    Excellent advice for everyone in this world; time goes by way too fast for us mere mortals.
    God Bless you Michael & thanks for passing on his words of wisdom Sean!

    Reply
  14. Trudy - May 14, 2022 12:59 pm

    I wish everyone else in that line was as kind as you. They missed a blessing by being in a hurry.

    Reply
  15. Paul McCutchen - May 14, 2022 1:02 pm

    Michael may have a point. Slow down and enjoy the moment.

    Reply
  16. Peyton Lingle - May 14, 2022 1:03 pm

    It is a blessing that these challenged persons are able to find employment. I get pleasure out of greeting baggers by name and see their appreciation for being noticed.

    Reply
  17. Cora - May 14, 2022 1:03 pm

    This is a wonderful story with great advice for each and every one of us to remember and put into practice daily. It’s a simple lesson, yet one that’s so easy to forget and ignore. I have been blessed to spend time with several people who were born with Down Syndrome and I have great admiration and respect for them and their families. Thank you for sharing this story today Sean, I definitely needed this reminder.

    Reply
  18. Pingback: Sean of the South: Pretty Good | The Trussville Tribune

  19. JonDragonfly - May 14, 2022 1:20 pm

    Thanks,, Norma.

    Reply
  20. Christine - May 14, 2022 1:20 pm

    Publix bag men are the best.❤️

    Reply
  21. Debbie - May 14, 2022 1:41 pm

    Oh, we need to all take lessons from “Michael”. The world is in such a rush, and we are missing so much. You would have missed this valuable advice had you not allowed for his artistry at work. Thank you!

    Reply
  22. Mamacita - May 14, 2022 2:36 pm

    This one is just LOADED with gems, the most obvious being Michael’s life and motto. Then comes you, Sean…slowing down and getting to know him. Rather hidden is Michael’s response to the sour puss line behind you: a smile and a wave!! Perfect reaction. Then not in least at all are your hyperbole (a very GOOD term indeed when it comes to your writings). Live grenade. Same pace as law school. Four or five presidential terms. Endearing and hilarious!

    Reply
  23. Ruth Mitchell - May 14, 2022 3:08 pm

    If only we could all see the world like Michael does, imagine the “fun” of life. Thanks for bringing a smile via Michael today!

    Reply
  24. Sheri K - May 14, 2022 3:24 pm

    Thank you Norma for your suggestion. “Slow Down” is gorgeous and really forces you to do just that! Beautiful voice and music!

    Reply
  25. Patricia Gibson - May 14, 2022 3:26 pm

    So sweet ❤️

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  26. LIN ARNOLD - May 14, 2022 3:58 pm

    You’re a good man, Sean!
    (You were at Publix, weren’t you?)

    Reply
  27. majac3356 - May 14, 2022 4:01 pm

    We all need to slow down, yet sadly when given the chance we get angry?! 🙁

    Reply
  28. Lyn Cogswell - May 14, 2022 4:42 pm

    “I learned a lot about him.” That’s what happens when we don’t rush it and take time to really be present with others and listen. Thanks so much, Sean, for modeling this attitude of the heart for us. I like myself better because of learning a lot about my special needs daughter and the lessons she has taught our family.

    Reply
  29. Diane Clayton - May 14, 2022 5:25 pm

    THis is just beautiful Thank you. <3

    Reply
  30. AlaRedClayGirl - May 14, 2022 5:52 pm

    I’d rather have a bagger like Michael any day over one who never says a word to you, doesn’t look at you, and then puts your bananas in a bag with cans.

    Reply
  31. Linda Moon - May 14, 2022 7:55 pm

    We have a Michael in our family who has Down Syndrome. We all love him to pieces. And l love visualizing Master Michael’s art t work and reading about his crazy & fun cat. So, slow down, Sean. It all moves by so quickly.

    Reply
  32. Richard - May 14, 2022 8:00 pm

    A few years ago, when Mariano’s in Harwood Heights (near Chicago) eliminated cashiers and baggers and instead went to self-check-out, they let all of the cashiers and the developmentally-challenged grocery-bagging young boys and girls go. I don’t shop there any longer.

    Reply
  33. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - May 14, 2022 10:28 pm

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  34. jean taylor - May 14, 2022 11:23 pm

    So beautiful, sweet, and tender…

    Reply
  35. Brenda Petty - May 15, 2022 12:23 am

    Thank you for making my day – again! I go to a store that employs people with Down Syndrome and I love it! These employees tell you the honest to goodness truth about any issue being discussed. It truly bothers me when I see/sense other patrons getting irritated or rolling their eyes because they are being delayed in their rush to join the traffic medley – got to hurry up to slow down…. Thank you again for the wonderful articles and your positive view!!!

    Reply
  36. suzi - May 15, 2022 1:16 am

    Lovely

    Reply
  37. MAM - May 15, 2022 3:43 am

    I’ve known several Down syndrome children and they all are a treat to know. Always smiling, laughing, and having fun. Thanks for reminding us not to rush! I’m always in a hurry, and I need to slow down. Thanks, Sean!

    Reply
  38. Layne Barrett - May 15, 2022 4:00 am

    Don’t we wish more people would take Michael’s advice!

    Reply
  39. Taylor Craven - May 17, 2022 11:00 am

    My wife and I were talking about ‘Michael’ this morning and his meticulous grocery packing. She has a great idea. When ‘Michael’ is working, have a designated checkout line, MICHAEL’S line, if you want precision grocery packing!’ Something like that. I think folks would love it. If I made decisions in that store, I’d consider it.

    Reply

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