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Daydreams of a Cashier MAG
"Here's your receipt ma'am; you saved $9.44. Have a good day," I said for what seemed like the hundredth time that day. My voice began to sound strange to me: cold, distant, robot-like. I wondered if others noticed it too.
My next customer loaded her groceries onto the belt. As I waited for her to finish, I looked at the clock and sighed. Only 4:30, an hour and a half to go, I thought.
It was May and the late afternoon sunshine streamed in through the front windows. Outside, a mother tried to put groceries in her car while her three small children ran in circles shouting to each other. Two elderly ladies sat on the bench, probably discussing the latest in new chicken recipes.
A girl who I sometimes saw in school, but whose name I couldn't remember, walked by holding her boyfriend's hand. They were both smiling and laughing really hard about something. It made me smile too, but at the same time I felt a twinge of sadness in my stomach. I thought of my own boyfriend and how far away he was. I hated the time we had to spend apart.
When I finally snapped out of my reverie, the woman was holding coupons in her outstretched hand. I must have had a startled look on my face when I noticed her, because she chuckled softly to herself.
"Do you have to work much longer?" she asked.
"About another hour and a half," I answered.
"Oh, that's not too bad." She smiled.
Easy for you to say, I thought to myself. You'll be out in the sunshine in less than five minutes.
"No, not too bad," was what I said out loud.
"Where are you hiding the peanut butter this week? Every time I come in, you've got the whole store switched around. Besides, I'm an old lady. My eyesight's not what it used to be and ..."
My mind suddenly conjured up a mental picture of the little elves who must sneak around the store, late at night, hiding peanut butter from unsuspecting customers. A giggle escaped my throat. "Aisle five," I said, still smiling.
"Thank you. You've been very helpful. Hope the rest of your shift goes fast."
So do I, I thought.
"Hi, how are you?" I asked my next customer.
"You have some nerve charging $1.29 for a head of lettuce," he shouted without responding.
"Well, um, that's the price." I never knew what to say in situations like that. All my customers seem to share one common belief: that I, personally, set the prices for the entire store.
"You can get lettuce for half that price at Victory," he raged on.
Somehow I doubted you could get lettuce anywhere for 65 cents, but I wasn't inclined to share this with my customer. Instead I smiled and said, "Did you see some of our other prices, though? We have a great sale on cereal this week."
"Well, you can't make a salad with corn flakes!" he said, taking his lettuce and storming out.
"Hi," I said to my next customer, without looking up. Inside, I was wondering if I'd ever make it through the rest of this day.
I started to look for a price on the flowers I had just been handed, when I noticed what they were - a dozen perfect, white roses, my favorite.
"$14.99, please," I said. "They're very beautiful; white roses are my favorite," I said as I started to take the money. I was suddenly taken aback when I saw the pristine, white-gloved hand that held the twenty-dollar bill. There were very few people who wore gloves like that, gloves that had never seen a speck of dirt. I somehow doubted Mickey Mouse was vacationing in New England.
"I know. That's why I bought them for you."
My knees grew weak when I heard that voice, and I had to put a hand on the register to steady myself. I was almost afraid to look up, yet at the same time compelled to do so. As my eyes rose, they traveled up the impeccable blue of a Marine's uniform. Each gold button was polished to perfection and glistened in the afternoon light. My eyes passed the smile that had always melted my heart, and finally rested on eyes that had the warmth of the May sunshine and sparkled like the finely polished buttons.
"I don't believe this: What are you doing home?" was all I could manage to say.
"I had to come home; I was lonely. I miss you so much. Sometimes I just miss ..."
"Miss. .. Miss! I gave you a twenty-dollar bill. I'd like my change back:"
That's when I realized I had been staring at the back wall, a twenty dollar bill clutched in my hand. I turned to look at the man buying the flowers. He was middle-aged and balding. He had no white gloves, no gold buttons. The only blue he wore was his torn t-shirt.
"I'm sorry, sir," I said, beginning to count out his change.
"My mother-in-law will be out of the hospital by the time I get these flowers to her," he commented to the woman behind him.
I sighed and looked at the clock. An hour and fifteen minutes left.