A Waste

Hi, how’s it going?

I plaster a fake smile on my face and ask the same question I’ve asked dozens of times today, robotic in my execution. Emphasize the ‘hi’ to make it seem genuine, drop the pitch of my voice on the last word to not sound like a valley girl. Sometimes ‘hi’ is ‘hey’ or ‘it going’ is ‘your day,’ customers ignore the question half the time anyway.

The woman in front of me is older, she’s wearing a brightly colored loose shirt with chunky geometric jewelry. Her purse is well-used and crumpled at the corners, and there’s a small, fresh coffee stain on her shirt. Despite the typical appearance, the smile she gives me seems genuine.

“Hello honey, it’s going well! How’s your day?”

She maintains eye contact as she drops her basket on the counter, and I feel my own smile become a little more real. She seems nice.

All good, thanks. Need a bag?

I’m already pulling out a folded paper bag, knowing the answer. There is too much in her basket to carry out on her own.

“Yes, sorry, I left mine at home!”

She has the same excuse as every other customer. I nod in faux empathy.

Oh no worries, paper bags are reusable too!

I ring out her purchases automatically, I know half the prices by memory and can work the register blind. As I go she idly looks me over, lighting up when something catches her eye.

“You went to Generic University? When did you graduate?”

I must have grabbed the old t-shirt by accident this morning, one of the hazards of owning mostly black clothing.

Yeah I went there, but I didn’t finish.

Her body language pulls away slightly as she awkwardly nods her head. She watches my hands on the register a little more closely.

Okay, your total is $an.amount.

She hands me her card and watches me charge her out carefully, smiling in relief as I hand it back with her receipt. Grabbing her paper bag and tucking the slip of paper away, she takes one last, slow look at me, her eyes flicking between my face and shirt.

“What a waste.”

I blink in surprise. I want to respond indignantly, hit her with some snappy comeback, but she’s already gone.


Another customer comes to the register.

“Hello honey, it’s going well! How’s your day?”

“Yes, sorry, I left mine at home!”

“You went to Generic University? When did you graduate?”

“What a waste.”

Again? Really? I wish I brought a pullover today. I internally roll my eyes.


Another customer comes to the register.

“Hello honey!”

“You went to Generic University? When did you graduate?”

“What a waste.”

Okay then, it’s one of those days. I look away and mumble a non-reply.


Another customer.

“You went to Generic University?”

“What a waste.”

I push my hair back.


Another customer.

“When did you graduate?”

“What a waste.”


Another.

“What a waste.”


“What a waste.”


What a waste.

 

Posted 2 October 2018

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