Paper or Plastic This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   "Where the hell is mybag?"


"I had four bags, and now I onlyhave three. What did you do with it?"

"Sir, you had four bags.You picked up three, and your wife picked up thefourth."


"Have a nice day," Imanaged to utter somewhat cheerfully as he left.

The sudden sound of acart crashing into the conveyor belt made me jump. I looked up to see a motherunloading a heaping cart as her two young children tugged at her skirt, beggingfor candy. She was a regular customer. I said hello and spread a fake smileacross my face. I sighed quietly as I began to cash out her groceries, knowingthat she would make the next few minutes miserable - for me and the customersbehind her. Bananas, grapes, oranges, lettuce, zucchini - my fingers rhythmicallytyped in the produce codes on the register - parsnips, apples andonions.

"Ninety-three dollars and 24 cents is your total," Isaid, anticipating her next words.

"What?" she questioned."I don't have that much with me. You'll have to subtract all theproduce."

"Okay, ma'am. No problem."

The othercustomers began to grow impatient as I searched her bags for the produce. Oncefinished, I looked at my watch. Only ten minutes had passed since I started myshift - five hours and 50 minutes to go. I took a deep breath and put on my fakesmile again, cringing as Billy Joel's voice filled the store for what seemed thehundredth time. As if the irritating music wasn't bad enough, there was a womanshopping who constantly interrupted it with her loud, hacking cough.

Ilooked to my next customer. A little boy with blond hair, about seven years old,set a carton of chocolate ice-cream and a bottle of chocolate syrup on theconveyor belt. He looked up at me shyly. I smiled and told him that this week youcould buy one carton of ice cream and get one free. His blue eyes lit up, and heblurted out in excitement, "Can I go and get another one?" He wasrunning before I could say anything. Before he left, he thanked mepolitely.

Suddenly, that terrible hacking cough became louder. I looked upto see the coughing woman push her cart into my line. She was short and stockywith curly hair. Her eyes looked tired and sad. She was about 60 years old, anddid not look too healthy. I smiled sympathetically as I began cashing out hersmall order, half of which was cat food and litter.

"Thirty dollarsand 67 cents, please," I said.

"I hope you don't mindchange," the woman said in a raspy voice, as she started to count out 31dollars in quarters. I cupped my hands together as she filled them with 124coins. I giggled as some of them slid through my fingers and fell to the ground.We talked about how she was glad to get those coins out of her purse, and howmuch lighter it was now. As she shuffled away, coughing, I realized that her eyeshad brightened a little.

The next hour passed a little faster, and themusic wasn't as irritating. A few nice customers can put a cashier in a goodmood. Everything was going well until a young man placed a case of beer on theconveyor belt. He had long, unbrushed hair, a red flannel shirt and ripped blackjeans. I greeted him and asked if I could see his ID. He agreed and pulled outhis license. I looked and saw "UNDER 21" printed on it.

Not onlywas he under 21 years old, but his license had also expired. Looking up at him, Isaw his stern face. His brown eyes looked into mine. My heart started beating alittle faster and I choked on my breath. I gulped, trying to figure out why thisguy was trying to pull this on me. I glanced to my right to see my managerwalking by. I looked him in the eye, and he immediately understood my problem. Heexplained to the man that he couldn't purchase the beer. I let out a sigh ofrelief and thanked him as the young man walked out of the storeempty-handed.

I became more at ease when I heard a familiar voice."Hi, Danielle. You remember how I like my things packed, right?" Inodded at the woman who, for some reason, is called "Spider Lady" bythe other cashiers. She's older, with short, curly black hair and large,thick-framed glasses. Standing only about five feet tall, she always wears a longtan coat. I pulled out the paper bags and started packing them just the way shelikes. She had three rolls of toilet paper, a couple of liquid soaps, two yogurtsand one package of nylons. Two rolls of toilet paper in one bag. A roll of toiletpaper and one soap in another. The two yogurts in another bag, and one soap withthe nylons in a fourth bag. But, I can't forget to put each soap and yogurt inits own small bag before it can go in the paper and plastic bag. That is a totalof 12 bags for eight items, but I don't mind. She may be a little strange, butshe's pleasant once you get to know her. She loves talking about the weather andhow she can't wait for it to be a little warmer, but not too warm.

Aftershe left, I looked at my watch. Only 15 minutes to go. A man about six feet tallentered my line. He was wearing casual clothing and looked to be in his latefifties. He set down five sale items. Unfortunately, store policy requirescustomers to buy at least $15 worth of groceries to receive certain sale prices.I knew right away that he did not have the minimum, so I explained it to him. Icould see the fury growing in his eyes. He picked up one of his items, a jar ofspaghetti sauce, and threw it down on the belt. It landed with a large"thunk" and I caught it before it could roll off and crash to thefloor. The man started swearing under his breath, and then at me.

Hestood there cursing the store and screaming at me. Apparently he thought it wasmy fault that he couldn't get what he wanted. After the man finally ran out ofterrible things to say, he turned to walk away. I faked a smile and told him tohave a nice day. He shot me an evil glare, stormed off, and continued hisgrumbling.

Another successful day at work, I thought as I shut off myregister light and put up my "Closed" sign.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
yesterday at 7:42 am
i love this so much!
xAllegria said...
Nov. 29, 2010 at 6:26 am
Interesting viewpoint.. it was a nice read :)
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