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Posts Tagged ‘my eyes started watering just thinking about this’

NTKOG #101: The kind of self-assured consumer who, when she feels she has been wronged, demands you go significantly out of your way in order to correct the perceived error — and stands there tapping her foot and not apologizing until you do so.

I am: the friggin’ worst at asking for what I want in any relationship, cashier/consumer included.

I am not: often so confident of my perceptions that I’ll take my own word over someone else’s when it comes to questions of short-term memory.

The Scene: One of my favorite book stores in Harvard, Thursday night. I walked in with a Hamilton in my pocket, prepared to buy a $2 used paperback mystery before heading out for a slice and a beer — what amounts to a bit of a spree, in my world. After a pleasant chat about Wodehouse with a bookseller (love this fine city), another girl rang up my purchase, which came to $2.13. Handed her the tenner and dug through my pockets for a while to find exactly thirteen cents. Few minutes later, at the pizza parlor, reach in my pocket to pay and — nothing. Book-seller had forgotten to give me my $8 change.

Called the bookstore immediately and explained what had happened, and could he ask my cashier if she’d forgotten to hand my cash back? Put me on hold ’til my slice was lukewarm, then told me the cashier was 100% absolutely positive she had handed my change back. “…but if you like,” he sort of grated out, “you can come back and we’ll be more than happy to conduct an official drawer audit.”

Laughed it off and read part of my book. Can you imagine?! Making someone count through an entire drawer of cash, just to recover $8? Depending on how busy the store was, closing down a register would probably cost them more than $8 in lost revenue and pissed-off customers! It would be self-involved and humiliating and … oh god, I had to do it.

When I returned, I jumped to the back of the long line (hey, I was being self-interested, not totally assholic) and when I got up to the front, the cashier I’d had smiled at me for a moment, looked down at my empty hands and then realized why I was there. Her smile melted like cake frosting at a picnic.

“Hey Jim,” she called to another employee, “Can you handle the other register while I do an audit?” I wanted to apologize like a friggin’ drug, but stayed strong. As my cashier laboriously began counting twenties, I watched Jim, oozing charisma, chat and grin with a grizzled old customer. “Did you hear about Salinger?” the customer asked as he was walking out; Jim nodded.

I looked up at Jim and smiled. “Poor Howard Zinn, getting overshadowed by Salinger. It’s the literary equivalent of Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.” Jim swiveled on his heel and took two steps away from me, not acknowledging that I’d even spoken. A few minutes later (my cashier was by now hand-counting the teetering pile of ones crammed into the register), Jim asked my cashier when it had started snowing; I told him it had started about ten minutes ago, and he grimaced at me, then walked another few aimless steps away. FUCK. These people HATED ME.

As the time stretched on (seventeen minutes, to be exact) and my cashier counted all of the loose change in the register and went back to re-count the ones, then added the whole mess together with a thumbnail sized calculator, I grew increasingly upset. Surely eight dollars couldn’t be worth this: all the math, and the hatred, and clogged register. I’m being so super literal with you when I say that bile rose in my throat and my eyes were coated with a thin sheen of tears. I wanted to beg her: stop it! stop the counting! it’s okay! i’m not blaming you and maybe I was wrong! But I’d forced myself to do this and had to see it through. As she finished totaling the register, my stomach knotted with the possibility that she actually was right and that all this had been for nothing.

After she stared at the total for a minute, silently, and without making eye contact, she peeled a five and three ones from the register and shoved them toward me. “Wait, are there — so the money was there?”

“I guess I made a mistake,” she said, in a voice like cracking ice. I mumbled about sixteen apologies (sorry for all the math!); she kept her head bowed and said nothing. As I skulked, ashamed, out of the bookstore, I overheard Jim joking to another customer: “…kind of the literary equivalent of Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.”

Goddamnit. Goddamnit.

The Verdict: I will never do this again, never never never never. This is not only the most horrible thing I’ve done for the blog, but, I think, the most horrible thing I’ve ever done, period. I was visibly shaking for about five minutes after I left the store. For someone so high-strung and quick to be cut by others’ resentment or even just perceived resentment, doing this for ANY AMOUNT OF MONEY is not worth the eventual cost of sweet boozy PTSD therapy.

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