Friday, April 04, 2014

More Adventures in Social Awkwardness

My quest on this day should have been a fairly simple one. I needed $5 to contribute to my office water club, but I only had a $20 bill. No one I knew could break a twenty, so it seemed my final recourse was to buy something to get change. This in itself is a notion that bothers me because I already dislike spending money, never mind spending money on things I don't need. I'd essentially be paying for smaller bills; it's silly.

This is why I want to do away with paper money altogether and work exclusively in debit and paypal transactions. Granted, the ease and speed of digital transactions of currency are at least partly to blame for how utterly broken our economy is and how shamefully rich some people on Wall Street have gotten, but that's neither here nor there.

I walked down to the little convenience store located conveniently in the basement floor of the building. As I walked in, I noticed a display of birthday cards. My mother's birthday is coming up and I hadn't gotten a card yet. So now the money being spent wouldn't be totally pointless. In fact, I'd be making progress on two quests at once. Gotta love that kind of efficiency. I picked up a card, and a fig newton too, because screw it, I like food.

As I walked up to the checkout, a delivery guy came in with a pallet of stuff for the store. He shouted his business to the older man behind the counter, who acknowledged him and got out a record book. I assumed they had some business to conduct, so I waited by the counter, items placed in front of me and wallet in hand, prepared to carry out my transaction afterward.

The trouble is, no business was being conducted. The man who came in began stocking shelves, and the gentleman behind the counter seemed to just be waiting with the book. I grew a little impatient, but not wanting to be rude, I just waited quietly, again assuming that he would get to me when he was ready.

This went on for a couple of minutes. The man behind the counter didn't acknowledge me or make eye contact with me. I started to wonder whether he was the one being rude, and then whether he had seen me waiting at all. Then, a thought occurred to me. Sheepishly, I muttered, "I'm about ready to check out." The gentleman stepped up to the register and asked, "What have you got?"

Yup. He was blind.

I was thoroughly embarrassed that I hadn't realized sooner, that I'd been standing there like a dope for a good two minutes. I was also relieved he couldn't see the look on my face. I proceeded to tell him what I had. He asked that I read the price on the birthday card, which he punched in to the register. The price of the fig newtons he had memorized. He gave me my total, $3.72, and I gave him the $20, stating it was a $20 bill.

It occurred to me that a worse person could likely have taken advantage of this man at this moment. I could have, for instance, handed him a one and claimed it was a twenty. No items were being scanned, and I didn't see a security camera (not that I look for them), so it would not have been difficult to get away with scamming him. The fact that I even thought of this kind of bothers me, but that's just how my mind works.

The gentleman proceeded to count out my change for me. I don't know how common this is where you live, but I've seen it a lot and totally appreciate it. There are enough cashiers who make mistakes, and enough obnoxious customers who insist they've been shortchanged because they don't know how to count, that this practice is often necessary for business owners to avoid incidents and losses. Nobody wants to have an excruciating 5-minute argument with a complete stranger over how to perform simple math, but it does happen, and more often than you'd think.

Have I mentioned how much I pity people who work in retail? I really do, and I admire your intestinal fortitude. I couldn't handle your job.

So, as he hands me my change, this is how he does it: he hands me the loose coins first, a quarter and three pennies. "There's one," he says. He hands me a one. "And one is five." He hands me a five. "And five is ten." He hands me a ten. "And ten is twenty."

Now, I'm not normally mathematically challenged, but the way in which he phrased that process left me cross-eyed and confused. Wait, he said one is five? And five is ten? No, one is one, five is five, and ten is ten. That's why they're different numbers. For a moment, I really thought he might have been way off, but I didn't want to drag out our interaction any further, so rather than question his unorthodox methods of addition where numbers are other numbers, I just said, "Okay, thank you. Have a nice day."

It wasn't until I was walking away that it dawned on me. Wait... this is correct change. He didn't make a mistake. I'm just stupid.

From there, I went back to my desk, somehow not feeling like I'd made progress on two quests at once so much as feeling like an awkward doofus who has trouble functioning like a normal adult. To top things off, the person I was supposed to give $5 to wasn't in the office, so I didn't even get the satisfaction of being able to check that item off my task list.

Yes, I literally have a task list. Organization is hard.

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