It happened again today. I was in line at the market behind the woman who thinks food is free. She had a rather large amount of items and stood here placidly as the checker rang them up and the box boy bagged and set them in the basket. Then the checker turned to her and said, “That’ll be forty-three-dollars and eighty-five cents.”
“Oh,” she said as though startled, “how much?” The checker pointed to the total on the register. $43.85. The woman stood there another moment as if she expected the cashier to say something like “Oh, wait, I forgot. It’s Wednesday. It’s free food day. Never mind.” But the cashier didn’t say that and after a moment, the lady picked up her purse and put it on the counter. She somehow seemed a bit startled that the checker was actually asking her for money.
She fished out a wallet. She looked for her money. “Oh,” she said again “That was forty three dollars and how much?” as she rummaged in her coin purse.
“Eight-five cents,” the checker replied.
The quart of ice cream I was holding was starting to feel a bit squishy. But it wasn’t just about the ice cream — in the other hand I had a small bag of apples and one of carrots. I really didn’t need the apples or the carrots, but I was ashamed to have the checker realize I was so desperate for ice cream that I would make a trip to the market just for that alone. This way she thought I had come for healthy stuff and just happened to note that ice cream was on sale. (Am I crafty, or what?)
In the meantime, the lady has now decided that she should just put this on he credit card. “It’s not registering,” she tells the checker.
“Does it have a chip?”
“Oh, yes. That’s right. I have to put it in the slot.” She puts it in the slot. She starts punching in numbers. “I can’t remember my PIN,” she tells the cashier. “Oh, wait, now I know! It’s my birthday!” She seems pleased with herself for having remembered this and, having shared it with several other people (who couldn’t care less), she punches it in. “I really should get cash back,” she mutters. “How much cash can I get back?” she asks the checker.
“Up to $60.”
“Oh, okay.” Frowning in concentration, she punches more numbers. I catch the cashier’s eye and she gives a slight smile and a “what can you do?” kind of shrug. I’m thinking of what I could do. I could trip and mash that ice cream against the back of her shirt. It’s getting softer by the minute. In the meantime, the people in the next line who started out way behind me have checked out, paid and gone.
“There!” she says triumphantly as the little machine beeps and flashes “remove card.” She removes the card, accepts the receipt and as the checker hands her the cash the lady says, “Oh, could you break that down for me? I need two tens and some fives. And ones, too.” The checker takes two of the $20s back and breaks them down, carefully counting the bills into the lady’s hand. We all wait as she stands there, sorting the money into her wallet. And then — and only then — she leaves.
The checker looks at me and smiles. A “what can you do?” kind of smile. I dunno, but I’m thinking this might be a case of justifiable homicide. Nevertheless, I step up and set down the quart of ice cream which is now definitely squishy. I set the carrots and apples down next to it. The line behind me shuffles forward.
“Ice cream attack, huh?” The cashier smiles at me as she rings it up. I hadn’t fooled her one little bit.
On the way home, just to prove it wasn’t all about the ice cream, I take out an apple and bite into it. Pretty good. But it’ll never be a match for Mint Chocolate Chip. Yeah, bring it on.