My blank look made it obvious that I had no idea what she was talking about. I’d gone to the supermarket checkout without my favourite cereal and waited to be served. When I asked the lady behind the register, ‘Don’t you stock that special puffed rice anymore?’, she replied, ‘I’ll have to go and find somebody. I can’t use the PA at the moment. It’s the Quiet Hour’.
She rushed off to find someone who could tell me about my cereal, and when she returned, she finished her explanation:
‘We have a quiet hour at this time on Tuesdays. It started as a trial last November, but we’ve continued it. We dim the lights in the store between 10.30 and 11.30 in the morning, and make as little noise as possible. No music, no public address system, and the trolleys aren’t even brought in from the carpark during that hour’.
By this time, a few more people were listening behind me and the other shop assistant had arrived to tell me about my puffed rice. Phone in hand, she found the code and reassured me it would be ‘in next week’.
At home, I checked out the Coles Supermarket website and also found a few news articles about this Quiet Hour. They’d received complaints about the bright lights and the loud music which upset people with the autism spectrum disorder, and related issues. They’d responded to their customers and now more of us are unexpectedly blessed.
On the website, I noticed a mother’s supportive comment. She said her life had been a nightmare because of critical customers whenever her child had a ‘huge meltdown’ in the store. All she could do was swiftly terminate her shopping expedition and leave with her traumatised toddler. Now she takes full advantage of the Quiet Hour.
Years ago, I was in a large toy shop and saw a little boy screaming on his mother’s trolley. I admired her patience and fortitude as she calmly continued her shopping without even reprimanding him. Now I wonder if he had autism and couldn’t tolerate the sensory overload in that store. Or maybe she wasn’t aware of such a thing in those days. Now that we know about the Autism Spectrum, we should be more sensitive and caring. Supermarkets are aware of the benefits of providing peaceful surroundings for their customers. Amazing!
I decided we’d support the local shop and buy our groceries during the Quiet Hour next time. On the previous week, I’d noticed the store seemed ‘less busy’, but now I understood. It wasn’t that there were fewer customers; it was the reduced frenetic activity! How much easier it is when we can go about our lives in a peaceful environment. I can think straight, relax, and decide what to buy without extraneous pressures.
Maybe some people thrive on loud music, bright lights and a busy environment, but I prefer tranquility. I wonder if the staff in Coles notice other benefits…for themselves and their customers?
It makes me think of the disciples of Jesus who were frightened by a storm on Lake Galilee, but he slept through it all. They woke him and he had a far better solution than Coles Supermarkets! He commanded the wind, ‘Be quiet!’ and gave the waves a strict order: ‘Be still!’ And they were!!
Jesus’ words will calm any storm. When we’re afraid in life’s turmoil, with a shortage of peace, and the cacophony in our busy world presses in on us, let’s remember what he said and let him still our fears. See what happens when you ask him to do it now!