Twelve Items or Fewer MAG

December 11, 2008
By Lauren Mack, Cohasset, MA

Most Saturday afternoons, I find myself dressed in yellow, standing stationary at my designated express register in the local supermarket. Riveting, no? Most days I stand, scan, and smile because I’m thrilled to be the one who’s laboring away so the crazy cat lady can feed her “babies” luxury food. Most days I love my job, because when I really analyze the situation, although standing, scanning, and smiling is unmistakably considered mindless labor, I do have the pleasure of interacting with a fascinating variety of natives in my little community. However, there are always those off days, to say the least.

She approaches with 37 items, exactly 25 over the limit – and fully aware of it. She is the enemy. In the mocking tone that only a senile woman can have, she says, “Oh hello, dearie. I think I’m a little over the limit, but I just knew you wouldn’t mind!” She flashes her pearly smile that soaks in a glass on her bedside table every night.

“Oh, of course not!” Of course I mind. I always do. 1 … 2 … As I begin to ring up her order, more customers line up behind her. 13 … 14 … 15 … I can see the agitation forming in the faces of those in line, so I work faster. 29 … 30 … 31 … Almost done. I punch in the last produce codes for bananas, asparagus, and a lemon and proudly proclaim the grand total of $63.47. She pays in cash, with exact change, of course, and manages to give me the most obscure combination of 47 cents using almost all pennies and nickels. After I complete the transaction and hand her the receipt, I proceed to bag the items. I’m feeling relatively blessed that there were no defective coupons or refunds to further prolong the order, when the woman says, “Oh, I wanted paper and plastic. And could you pack the bags lightly, dearie? The doctor said I shouldn’t strain myself.”

Let me tell you, it takes every ounce of courtesy and patience in my body to simply say: “Sure thing, ma’am!” After she is completely satisfied, the ultimate pesky customer walks off to purchase a pack of Marlboro Reds and several scratch tickets from James at the service desk, and then she is gone.

Acutely aware that my line is now stretched far beyond normal lengths, I begin to make up for lost time. The next woman is only buying two bagels from the bake shop, some peaches, and a bottle of water, which she evidently opened at some point during the previous transaction.

“I’m really sorry about that wait, ma’am. I apologize for any inconvenience,” I say, as the total sums up to $7.41.

“Oh no, don’t worry about it,” she replies in a way that makes me want to smile. “That wasn’t your fault. Some people are just plain ignorant!” She hands me a $10 bill. As I finish the transaction, she reaches into her bag and pulls out not a handful of pennies, nickels, and dimes, but rather a small piece of chocolate and hands it to me.

“Here. You deserve this more than I do,” she says with a wink and a warm smile. I have no choice but to smile back because at this moment I realize how no kindness goes without recognition, even the smallest act of thoughtfulness.

I will never ask a customer if they have 12 items or fewer, nor will I ever refuse an order, regardless of how many items they have. In most cases, I don’t know who my customers are; I don’t know anything about their incomes, their lives, their struggles – and they don’t know me. All I can do is help them get through the day by showing a smile and parting with a simple “Have a great day!” – hoping that perhaps they appreciate my two cents of kindness just as I appreciated that little piece of chocolate.

The author's comments:
I work at Stop and Shop. It's absolutely fantastic.

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This article has 63 comments.

on May. 23 2011 at 4:52 pm
WildeWriter BRONZE, Springfield, Missouri
2 articles 1 photo 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you believe you can make a living as a writer, you already have enough ego already."

This is a great story! I love your voice and the vocab you used! It made me smile :)

on Apr. 9 2011 at 4:39 pm
ohmakemeover BRONZE, Centerville, Minnesota
3 articles 0 photos 100 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth."- Margaret Atwood

This was a well-written and inspirational piece!  You sound like a great employee.  I'd be glad to shop in your line, teehee.  Nice job!

on Feb. 24 2011 at 8:03 pm
singinginthegardn GOLD, Cowell, Massachusetts
16 articles 2 photos 158 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~Anaïs Nin

Cute :)


on Feb. 24 2011 at 6:18 pm
SeerKnowsBest SILVER, Pryor, Oklahoma
5 articles 0 photos 53 comments

Favorite Quote:
i have so many favourite quotes, but one that has stuck with me for years is " to die would be an awfully big adventure" -peter pan, Peter Pan, j. m. barrie

i just looked at your profile and you are just like me!!!!!!!!! i love harry potter

Ehwaz11 BRONZE said...
on Feb. 2 2011 at 2:35 pm
Ehwaz11 BRONZE, Hopkinton, New Hampshire
4 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"It's important to remember that we all have magic inside us."
- J.K. Rowling
“Oh, dead man, you’re dead wrong,” I tell him. “The world goes on stupid and brutal, but I do not. Can’t you see? I do not.” -Andi Alpers, Jennifer Donnelly

The chocolate reminded me of Remus Lupin :)

Nice story!

LaylaA said...
on Feb. 2 2011 at 1:09 pm
LaylaA, Buenos Aires, Other
0 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” Oscar Wilde

Very simple but very inspiring and meaningful, it really just made me smile and feel happy.

Ocean97 SILVER said...
on Jan. 12 2011 at 11:41 am
Ocean97 SILVER, Suffield, Connecticut
8 articles 3 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you live to be 100 years old, then I hope I live to be that, minus 1 day, so that I never have to live a day without you."

 It just makes you realize that there are people in the world who respect others. Hope you enjoyed the chocolate!

on Jan. 12 2011 at 8:57 am
Internal-Love PLATINUM, Queens, New York
33 articles 3 photos 311 comments

Favorite Quote:
Nothing's black or white, its all just a shade of gray---

TI "Live your Life" ft Rihanna

you turned something simple into an article I'm gonna rate 5 stars!!

btw hearing the cashier perspective from you makes me wanna be friendly to every cashier now. Brighten up their day.

on Jan. 11 2011 at 2:14 pm
DifferentTeen PLATINUM, Seaford, Delaware
32 articles 2 photos 332 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There’s no such thing as true love, just spurts of insanity—falling over and over again, thinking that won’t happen to me"

Well, that was incredible. I haven't been on TI in a while, and this is the first article I've read in a long time. It simply reminded me of how many talented writers are out there wasting their lives away at a job that has barely anything to do with writing. It wasn't boring at all and your title got my attention right away, when I started reading I just got deeper and deeper into the story, even though-- as DreamForever has said-- its such a simple story. Great job! Keep writing.

on Nov. 28 2010 at 5:14 pm
-BeautifulFeet- PLATINUM, Maysville, Missouri
21 articles 0 photos 78 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world."

This is a very simple story.  It gives the reader a look into your life, and why you do what you do. It may seem simple, but it has great meaning- no matter how you're feeling, someone may be feeling worse, so always keep a smile on your face and be patient! 

on Nov. 6 2010 at 7:34 pm
NsyncLanceFan GOLD, Chehalis, Washington
11 articles 1 photo 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Take a tip from me Mr. Producer. One alligator, one chicken, one satisfied audience." Martin Crane, Frasier

t just made my day. sweetness!

on Oct. 15 2010 at 10:04 pm
sweetcaroline2339 GOLD, Staten Island, New York
11 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"there's nothing interesting about being perfect."

very good!! keep writing

on Oct. 15 2010 at 5:40 pm
kinda good kinda bad its a kinda

on Sep. 23 2010 at 10:52 pm
DaydreamBeliever GOLD, Lockport, Other
15 articles 4 photos 140 comments

Favorite Quote:
If you live to be one hundred, I want to live to be one hundred minus one day, so that I'll never have to live without you. -Winnie the Pooh

ha, i actually really liked that. you start of believing it will be kind of boring, but it was actually really, really, good :)

amybug said...
on Sep. 23 2010 at 5:04 pm
amybug, Penrose, Colorado
0 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Always remeber there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name." -The Avett Brothers

I know I have already commented on this before, but I really liked it! Great job! Also I would love if you would check out some of my work and better yet comment on it :D

on Sep. 23 2010 at 7:34 am
very well written

on Sep. 1 2010 at 4:10 pm
PearlWhiteNight BRONZE, No, Pennsylvania
3 articles 7 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." -Mark Twain

nice, i really like the style in which you wrote it

on Aug. 31 2010 at 5:00 pm
lyricsandlimericks GOLD, Lascassas, Tennessee
19 articles 3 photos 8 comments
Awesome! I know from experience that you never know what a person is going through and just a sincere smile can go a long way. As can patience, though people can be really frustrating sometimes.

on Aug. 10 2010 at 3:24 pm
Eatfoodzap SILVER, Winchester, Massachusetts
5 articles 2 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. But if you can overcome the sacrifice and make it your own, you will gain an irreplaceable Fullmetal heart."- Edward Elric

Oh, that was very sweet. Very short and simple, yet packs a strong message. ^-^

Thrush BRONZE said...
on Aug. 10 2010 at 1:40 pm
Thrush BRONZE, Tegaad, Other
4 articles 0 photos 65 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Live life to it's fullest extent, it's the only life you've got" "Enjoy yourself, be yourself, love yourself"

Nice message, nice story.


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