“Betty” is a cashier at my Kroger. She has been there since I’ve been shopping at that location, which is nearly sixteen years, and I’m guessing she’s worked there much longer than that. She is probably in her late fifties or possibly early sixties. With some people it’s hard to tell, and I wouldn’t dare ask, because, frankly, we aren’t that close, and it’s none of my business. We seem to have a love/hate relationship going on, and I’m not quite sure why.
I am always polite and courteous to cashiers and clerks. I don’t envy them their jobs. They stand on their feet upwards of four hours a day, and even though they now say we should all stand for most of our day, because sitting’s a killer (my sister-in-law says sitting is the new smoking), I personally wouldn’t be able to hack it. My legs hurt bad enough when I stand on them for a couple of hours or spend more than thirty minutes walking through a big store with concrete slab floors. So, just that aspect of their job is enough to make me empathetic toward them.
I also am conscious of the amount of crap that customers dish out on a regular basis, and you know too, because we have all witnessed it. For the most part, people are like you and me, and don’t try to cause anyone to lose face or feel bad when they’re just trying to do their jobs. Granted, there are the newly trained cashiers that always manage to make a mistake and have to call over the manager to override the register, and I try to assure them that they’re doing an excellent job and not to worry, they’ll get it soon. They always smile gratefully, and I feel good knowing that, at least, I didn’t make their day any worse.
Then there are the cashiers who, you just know, are having a bad day. Maybe their child is sick and home from school, and they had to inconvenience Grandma to babysit, or worse, leave him home alone, because there is no one to step in, and she can’t afford to lose her job. Or she has a splitting headache (who wouldn’t with all those computer beeps every time an item scans), and has to wait until her break to take an Advil, if she even gets a break. Or her manager just demoralized her in front of a customer or two, because of some nit-picky something or other. Unless that cashier is outright rude to me, I always give them a smile and try to say something nice to lift them up. I almost always see their spirits lighten just a little, and I feel good about that.
I had one baffling experience at Target a couple of years ago. My friend Cindy and I were shopping, and we both went through the same checkout lane. The cashier didn’t say one single word to either of us. Not one word. At first I thought maybe she didn’t speak English, but as we were walking away, someone she knew came through her line and she was Miss Chatty Cathy. Okay, whatever.
So, Betty and I have a complicated thing going on, or maybe she’s like this with all her customers. I know she knows me. She’s always there, except for the weekends when all the teenagers work, and I’m always there, or so it seems, so she’s seen me LOTS of times, and I’ve gone through her line lots of times. Most of the time she has no recognition of me in her greeting, which consists of “Is there anything on the bottom of your cart that we can help you with, and do you need any stamps or gift cards today?” She’s always polite, but I believe she thinks I’m stupid or incompetent, because she sometimes instructs me in the simplest of terms as if I’m a child or a doddering old woman. I know I’m past sixty, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t look any older than she does.
Then there are the times (always when I’m in the biggest hurry) when Betty loves me. She really, really loves me. I’m her best friend, her confidante, her sob sister. She wants to tell me all about her daughter, her husband, her job, her vacation, her shopping trip, her grandchildren. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a topic or two, but you get the picture. Sometimes I think, as I edge my way out the door with my loaded cart, that she’s going to follow me out the door, which would be fine, she could help me load it into my car. But by this time my ears are hurting or going numb or something. And I really have to get going, because pressing matters await me. I wave goodbye, thinking she will actually remember me the next time I come in, which will probably be the next day, even though I just sent another Kroger executive’s kid to college, but she almost never does. But, she always remembers to ask me if I need stamps or gift cards.
See you soon,