SLICE AND DICE

INTERVIEWS & PODCASTS


Encounters in a Bookstore #555: Reporting Myself

At the bookstore where I work, things are typically straightforward. But sometimes they are not.

On a recent Sunday morning I was having a chat with my coworker and friend, Katie. She is also my supervisor, in that she is responsible for things like fully processing returns and exchanges, and the rest of us cashiers have to ask her when we want to use the restroom or get a drink of water.

We were talking. A woman and her daughter approached the registers. We ceased our conversation, and I said, “Next please.” The two approached cautiously and then stopped, the woman’s body language very much asking if I was sure about it. I gestured for them to proceed toward me.

The girl placed her book on the counter and I picked it up and scanned it. The mother moved her daughter off to the side. I asked if they were members. “I’m not sure,” the mom said. “Probably not.”

“Okay, it’s $8.66, then.”

“Is there a way to find out?”

If you can’t remember, probably you’re not, I thought. But I asked her phone number, and when that one failed the membership test, I allowed her to try a second number. “Not showing up,” I reported.

“I guess not, then. Sorry for interrupting your conversation,” she gestured between Katie and me and looked me pointedly in the face.

“Oh, no, not a problem at all,” I faltered. It’s my job to take your money, I was thinking. And we stopped talking, no prob, as soon as you appeared. What’s your deal, lady?  

She placed two fives on the counter, far from my waiting hand. This is an extreme pet peeve of mine. She pawed through her bag. “What was the change again?”

“66 cents.”

Rummage rummage rummage. “Take it out of that,” she pointed at her money pile, but didn’t bother to actually address me.

So I reached all the way across the counter for the money, did the cash register thing, and gave her the $1.34 she was owed. Either she or I said “Thank you,” first. Whoever it was, we both said it. Then she turned on a robot voice and said, “Have-a-nice-day.”

I raised an eyebrow, taken slightly aback. “You too?” I asked.

“When I was in retail, we were required to say that.” She looked at me pointedly again.

“Oh,” I smiled and shrugged. “Well, have a good one.”

She moved away from the counter, but then came back. “You can call a manager.”

“I’m sorry?” I said.

“That’s right. Call a manager. I want to speak with a manager.”

And so I did.


Liz Mathews composes ads for many things science fiction and fantasy. Her writing can be found in magazines, catalogs, newspapers, brochures, and books; and on bookmarks, postcards, cable television commercials, and even doorhangers all across the United States and in some parts of Canada. She lives in Brooklyn but considers the cornfields of Iowa home.

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