Tuesday, September 02, 2014

{a retail fable}

They were brown. Close-toed. Extremely comfortable. 70% off.

I tried them on and they were my size. Magic.

I took them to the cash register. I was in a hurry, but the line was short. There were three people in front of me and they all appeared to be together--a young couple and a man holding a bag of chips. The man was complaining about his wife, who'd just spent three hundred dollars he didn't have on a purse she didn't need.

They moved to the next available till and then it was my turn.

The woman working there was about my age. She had long black hair piled up on top of her head like a birthday cake. Her nails were the kind that curved over her fingertips, long and shiny and deadly-looking, and clacked against the register keys and the countertops and her front teeth. She drummed them on everything and they flashed and glinted in the light like dainty little knives. She smiled vacantly past me as I pushed my shoes up onto the counter.

She scanned the barcode and raised her eyebrows at the glowing numbers on the computer screen.

"Twenty-two ninety-nine."

More magic. I had a twenty and three ones in my pocket. I slid the bills across the counter, making the standard Canadian-in-the-States joke about how "all your money looks the same to me!" She didn't laugh, and I didn't mind. It's not a funny joke.

She turned and started pecking away at the keys with her talons.

She paused. Her brows crept further into her hairline as she squinted at the screen.

A minute passed. I examined the shoes. I checked the time. I didn't have much, but I should be okay. The girl with the cake hair popped her head over the divider between her register and the next one. "Jennifer, get over here."

Their backs were to me and they were talking in whispers. A few more minutes passed.

Jennifer's voice over the intercom: "Manager to till 2, please, manager to till 2?"

Three of them now, huddled together like football players. The first girl turned to look at me for the first time since I arrived at her station.

"Sorry, I just don't want to give you the wrong change--wait, are you good at math?"

A penny. A penny. One cent. Twenty-three, subtract twenty-two ninety-nine, one cent. My mouth gaped open. Out loud I said, "Uh, well no but...I don't need change..."

In Canada, pennies don't exist anymore.

The manager said, "One cent!"

Cake Hair's hand flew to her mouth. "No way! Yes! Oh funny! I guess I got thrown off because of the decimals! I always have the hardest time with decimals..."

She gave me my penny and my shoes and that was that, I guess.

The moral of the story is make sure you go to all your math classes.