到肉铺买肉、到药房买药、去食品杂货店买食品，这都很平常。可那年夏天我呆在纽约州沃里克镇奶奶家时，情况则不一样。她写了一张购物清单叫我到一家乡村杂货店买东西。杂货店里的货架横七竖八地塞满各式商品，想找到要买的商品可让我伤脑筋。 我走近柜台，柜台后面有一位我从未见过如此长相的女人。一副镶有假宝石边框的眼镜摇摇欲坠地架在她的鼻尖上，满头灰发。 “打扰一下。”我说。女人抬起了头。 “你就是克莱门特家的小孩吧，”她说,“我是蜜蜂小姐。过来让我好好看看。”蜜蜂小姐把眼镜向鼻子上扶了扶说道,“如果商店失窃，我好向治安官描述你的外貌特征。” “我又不是小偷！”我有些吃惊。我才7岁啊！怎么可能当小偷呢！ “在我看来，你只是个黄毛丫头，可我觉得你有这方面的潜质。”蜜蜂小姐说着就回过头看报纸去了。 “我要买这些东西，”我说着，举起手里的购物单给她看。 “那又怎样？去取啊。” 蜜蜂小姐用手指了一下纱门上的一块牌子。“这里就我们俩，我不是你的佣人，所以我建议你最好到那一摞篮子那儿拿一个，找到要买的东西就往里面放。如果幸运的话,你在天黑之前可以赶到家。” 离天黑还有五个小时，我不知道来不来得及。 我从离我最近的货架开始逐层寻找购物单上第一件商品：猪肉和菜豆。我来来回回找了三次，才在一堆面包和麦片里发现一听猪肉。第二件是一卷手纸，在一份新闻报纸下找到的；创可贴——我在哪儿看到的？哦，对了，在面霜旁。这家商店就像一座迷宫，然而里面却充满惊喜。我在花生酱后面还发现一本新的超人漫画！ 那年夏天，我每个星期都要到蜜蜂小姐的店铺几趟。有时，蜜蜂小姐少找我钱；有时，她多收我钱。更甚的是，她还把前一天的报纸当作即日的报纸卖给我。我到她店里买东西，感觉就像上战场一样。手里攥着购物单，脑中牢记商品名，我离开奶奶家向蜜蜂小姐的杂货店挺进，这阵势就像当年巴顿将军征战北非一样。 “那听菜豆只要29美分。”一天下午，我纠正蜜蜂小姐道。我紧盯着收款机上的数字变化，蜜蜂小姐入账时记的是35美分。被我察觉多收了钱后，蜜蜂小姐毫无难堪之色，她越过镜框瞥了我一眼，然后把价格改了过来。 她从不让我宣告胜利。整个夏天，她想尽办法来捉弄我。我刚记住小苏打的发音以及它在货架上的位置，她就调整了商品的排列，害得我又一顿好找。暑假快结束了，以前耗时要一小时的购物之行，现在十五分钟就完事了。在我要返回布鲁克林的那天早上，我到蜜蜂小姐杂货店买一包口香糖。 “好了，潜能小姐，”她说，“这个夏天你都学到了什么？”你是个十分刻薄的人！我双唇紧闭。令人惊奇的是，蜜蜂小姐大笑起来。 “我知道你是怎么看我的，”她说，“但你不会想到：我并不在意！人生于世，各得其所。我相信我的任务是教会我遇到的每一位小朋友人生的十个教益。随便你怎么想，潜能小姐。当你长大后，就会发现我俩的相遇其实是一件值得庆幸的事。”庆幸遇见蜜蜂小姐？哈！这想法有够荒唐的…… 直到有一天，女儿拿着作业来到我的身边。 “这些数学题太难了。你能替我做吗？”她说。 “如果妈妈替你做了，那你自己如何能学会呢？”我说。这时候，我突然想起那时在蜜蜂小姐杂货店的情景：我吃力地核对着收款机里的数目。自那时起，我有被多收过钱吗？ 当我的女儿回过头继续做作业时，我在想：蜜蜂小姐真的在多年前就向我传授了若干人生之道吗？我随手拿起了纸，开始动笔记录。 确实，我学到了整整十条人生教益： 1. 学会仔细倾听。 2. 不要想当然——事物每天都在变化。 3. 生活充满惊喜。 4. 大声说出你的问题。 5. 不要以为身临困境总会有援手。 6. 并不是每一个人都像你一样诚实。 7. 不要急于评判他人。 8. 凡事要竭尽全力，即使任务似乎超出自己的能力范围。 9. 仔细复核每个环节。 10. 最好的老师并不只在学校。 You went to the butcher’s for meat, the pharmacy for aspirin, and the grocery store for food. But when I spent the summer with my Grandmother in Warwick, N.Y., she sent me down to the general store with a list. How could I hope to find anything on the packed, jumbled shelves around me? I walked up to the counter. Behind it was a lady like no one I’d ever seen. Fake-jewel-encrusted glasses teetered on the tip of her nose, gray hair was piled on her head. "Excuse me," I said. She looked up. "You’re that Clements kid," she said. "I’m Miss Bee. Come closer and let me get a look at you." She pushed her glasses up her nose. "I want to be able to describe you to the sheriff if something goes missing from the store." "I’m not a thief!" I was shocked. I was seven year too young to be a thief! "From what I can see you’re not much of anything. But I can tell you’ve got potential." She went back to reading her newspaper. "I need to get these." I said, holding up my list. "So? Go get them." Miss Bee pointed to a sign on the screen door. "There’s no one here except you and me and I’m not your servant, so I suggest you get yourself a basket from that pile over there and start filling. If you’re lucky you’ll be home by sundown." Sundown was five hours away. I wasn’t sure I would make it. I scanned the nearest shelf for the first item on my list: pork and beans. It took me three wall-to-wall searches before I found a can nestled between boxes of cereal and bread. Next up was toilet paper, found under the daily newspaper. Band-Aids—where had I seen them? Oh, ye next to the face cream. The store was a puzzle, but it held some surprises too. I found a new Superman comic tucked behind the peanut butter. I visited Miss Bee a couple of times a week that summer. Sometimes she short-changed me. Other times she overcharged. Or sold me an old newspaper instead of one that was current. Going to the store was more like going into battle. I left my Grandma’s house armed with my list—memorized to the letter—and marched into Miss Bee’s like General Patton marching into North Africa. "That can of beans is only twenty-nine cents!" I corrected her one afternoon. I had watched the numbers change on the cash register closely, and Miss Bee had added 35 cents. She didn’t seem embarrassed that I had caught her overcharging. She just looked at me over her glasses and fixed the price. Not that she ever let me declare victory. All summer long she found ways to trip me up. No sooner had I learned how to pronounce bicarbonate of soda and memorized its location on the shelf, than Miss Bee rearranged the shelves and made me hunt for it all over again. By summer’s end the shopping trip that had once taken me an hour was done in 15 minutes. The morning I was to return to Brooklyn, I stopped in to get a packet of gum. "All right, Miss Potential," she said. "What did you learn this summer?" That you’re a meany! I pressed my lips together. To my amazement, Miss Bee laughed. "I know what you think of me," she said. "Well, here’s a news flash: I don’t care! Each of us is put on this earth for a reason. I believe my job is to teach every child I meet ten life lessons to help them. Think what you will, Miss Potential, but when you get older you’ll be glad our paths crossed!" Glad I met Miss Bee? Ha! The idea was absurd... Until one day my daughter came to me with homework troubles. "It’s too hard," she said. "Could you finish my math problems for me?" "If I do it for you how will you ever learn to do it yourself?" I said. Suddenly, I was back at that general store where I had learned the hard way to tally up my bill along with the cashier. Had I ever been overcharged since? As my daughter went back to her homework, I wondered: Had Miss Bee really taught me something all those years ago? I took out some scrap paper and started writing. Sure enough, I had learned ten life lessons: 1. Listen well. 2. Never assume—things aren’t always the same as they were yesterday. 3. Life is full of surprises. 4. Speak up and ask questions. 5. Don’t expect to be bailed out of a predicament. 6. Everyone isn’t as honest as I try to be. 7. Don’t be so quick to judge other people. 8. Try my best, even when the task seems beyond me. 9. Double-check everything. 10. The best teachers aren’t only in school.