The man stepped forward hesitantly, slowly removing his products and placing them on the counter.
The cashier smiled at him warmly, as was company policy, “How are you today?” Another company policy—always make the customer feel special and important. She watched with well concealed impatience as he slowly, methodically placed his cans of corn behind the beans, the bread beside the butter, all of it behind the five pound bag of basmati rice. “Today is my anniversary,” he told the cashier, who turned slightly and rolled her eyes in the direction of her colleague one aisle over. Great, a talker.
“We’ve been married fifty years, me and my Maeve.” His eyes became distant as he looked into his past, smiling as he remembered. “We met on a Caribbean cruise; God she was so beautiful, sitting there on deck…” The cashier sat down on her stool, drumming her fingers on the register, waiting for the man to finish spilling his life story. I really don’t care about the time you had dinner while watching acrobats; I don’t care about how you two “knew” the first time you looked into each other’s eyes; I don’t care about the…”Time we went swimming with the dolphins? Its stunning down there—the water is so much clearer there than here in the city, and then a dolphin swam up to us and we pet it and nuzzled it…”
“What’s the holdup!?” some thirty-something year old guy wearing a power suit and a pissed off expression yelled at the cashier. He was waving a soda and a bag of chips in one hand and using the other to sign that the old man holding up the line must be demented or something.
But on he went. “I remember taking Maeve to the world’s fair in 1964 and seeing all those rocket engines. They kept saying that they would fly to the moon, but it seemed so silly at the time. But they did it—Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin—they walked on the moon! We saw so much that day. But then we had our kids a few years later and we had to give up gallivanting to take care of them. Oh they were beautiful kids; we loved them so much. We cried so much on their first day of college. They were twins, you know, perfectly identical—we could never tell them apart.
“After they moved out we planned to travel the world, but Maeve got sick with that cancer and I had to stay and take care of her—who else would? It took a few years, but she got better. And now it’s our fiftieth anniversary”
By now the line was getting restless, tapping their feet impatiently, looking as though they would love nothing more than to throw that rambling old codger out themselves. The cashier noticed and realized that it had to stop; she felt so bad though, that sweet old man…but company policy was “no more than two minutes per customer” and she was already pushing five.
“Sir—I’m sorry, sir? Cash or credit?”
The man looked up at her with bewilderment, “credit? Oh no, I don’t have credit here…Maeve doesn’t let me have credit…she says that that idiot peanut farmer caused this recession mess by raising interest rates; all of our neighbors have credit and now can’t pay it off. No, I don’t have credit. That Ronald Reagan guy seems to know his stuff though…”
“Okay, sir, how do you want to pay, do you have cash?”
“…We heard him on the radio last week…”
“Sir! How would you like to pay!”
“…Even those Democrats seem to like him…”
“SIR!!!” she yelled as she grabbed the man’s wrist, “How will you be pa…” She stopped when she felt something cold against her palm. She looked down, her face turning pale as she looked up and said “I…I’m sorry sir…have a nice day.”
“Thanks, you too,” said the man as he walked out of the store with a small, vacant smile on his face, his bags left forgotten on the counter.
“Hey,” yelled the man in the power suit, “what kind of garbage is this? That old fogy just kept us waiting for almost ten minutes, and you’re not even gonna ring him up?”
The old man turned to wave to the cashier, his sleeve riding up as he did revealing the medical bracelet on his wrist.