There’s a long line of people before and after me at the Debit & Credit Only queue. The supermarket has 8 lanes in all and each has more people in it than mine. It’s been a long day and I’m feeling lucky already.
I am also bored to death, and can’t wait to get out of here. But I’m stuck helplessly in the middle of this all, and can’t do anything but to observe humanity around me, equally bored and unable to do anything. The supermarket checkout has indeed become the ultimate manifestation of compliance and subservience of modern life. And as if to make it even more torturous, the tyrannical forces of marketing have deployed the ultimate weapon to shock-and-awe us all: The trash rags of celebrity magazines lining up along the conveyor. We all inch forward, obediently replacing the separator bars before our stuff. We march onward gazing upon the lowest of the low forms of journalism oozing out of the glossy grossness of blatant racism masked as populism, libellous rumours peddling as investigative reports and fake parodies sold as news. The Enquirers and the Suns and the Moons and the Teens and the Queens of ‘reality’ are just too much to take right now, so I instead focus on what’s happening ahead of me. I am even too annoyed to indulge into my phone.
The guy two customers ahead of me finally gets his turn. He’s got just a few items so it shouldn’t be long now. There’s a hold up as he’s talking to the cashier.
“I’m sorry, sir, this is a Credit & Debit Only line”, the kid says softly. If she’s frustrated, she does not show it.
Gasp! There are a few rumblings in the line. He’s got cash! How can he have cash in the Credit & Debit Only line! What a Psychopath among innocent civilians! The Perpetrator!
The Perpetrator is holding his wallet. Then he looks behind at the long line. Then he turns around to see all the other lines, including the Cash & Debit Only line going deep into infinity and beyond. He knows he is clearly stuck.
“Are you refusing to take cash?” Perpetrator asks the kid tensely, who shrugs lightly and nods, then watches the long queue, as if trying to give the guy a hint.
“So what do I do now?” He asks and points to his grocery sitting there, waiting to be claimed and justified.
“I can cancel the purchase if you like, sir.” She says.
“Then how will I pay?” The tension is rising slowly, I can feel it, I’m not sure if anyone else can.
“You could go to the Customer Service...” She points at a counter far away. That area has three separate lines and crowds larger than Labour day parade... ”
“No. I will not go there. Tell me again, are you refusing to accept cash?” He asks again. He now has a monotonous tone, devoid of any expression, which I find odd.
“I don’t have a register here, sir, so I can’t accept it——“,
He does not let her finish and cuts in... “Do you know it’s illegal to refuse cash as legal tender? You just committed a crime here. Do you know that? Does your store know that?”
What the actual fuck. I say to myself, as I am sure everyone else does too.
“Erm... I don’t know, sir...” the flustered kid picks up the phone and then we can all hear her through the store speakers which momentarily turns the petite little cashier kid’s existence into omnipresence... “Any available manager please come to Checkout 4 for customer assistance please, any available manager to Checkout 4...”
“Hey buddy, you are in the wrong line, but here...” A good Samaritan standing before the Perpetrator takes out his wallet, “...give me the cash, and take your grocery, I’ll charge it...” , Samaritan then asks the cashier, “How much is the amount?”
The woman in between me and the Samaritan turns around and looks at me, shaking her head, as if saying “Can you believe in this day and age?“, to which I smile and nod back at her. The Shaker woman returns to the drama.
“$13.83”, says the kid. The Samaritan picks out his card with one hand, ready to insert it in, while his other hand is held out to take the cash from the Perp.
“Thank you, it shouldn’t be necessary, but I guess it’ll have to do...“, says the Perp and hands the guy a $20 bill.
“I don’t have any change...”, Samaritan looks into his wallet and grimaces, “That’s why I am in this line...” Samaritan than turns around to look at the Shaker woman in front of me, and than at me.
Oh. My. God. I feel I am about to be drawn into something I have no desire to be drawn into!
The Shaker lady in front of me shakes her head again, “I don’t have change either! That’s why I’m in this line as well!” The moment she finishes her sentence, The kid, The Perp, The Samaritan and the Shaker all turn to look directly at me.
Oh, For Fuck’s Sake!
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