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Recognized Social Butterfly



A Welcomed Incongruity at Safeway

The other day during my quest for a relatively short line at the Safeway express checkout counter, I found an opening with only one person ahead of me. But all did not go as smoothly as I had anticipated. A man who had already bagged a few items started to harangue the cashier because he had a long-standing “credit” due to him. After spending a few moments consulting her computer screen, the cashier, a petite elderly Asian woman, patiently tried to explain to the man that he was mistaken. But the man relentlessly pursued his claim. There was no doubt at all that Safeway owed him, and he wanted to use his credit right away. The unfazed cashier, however, repeated that the store had no record of any credit owed to him. She was sincerely apologetic, while the man was nearly apoplectic.  However, when he realized that he was not going to receive any compensation from the firm but polite cashier, the man huffed and quickly exited the store. This incident took about ten minutes.

Now it was my turn. It should have been a simple, fast procedure; but there was a glitch. The cashier, after examining the five containers of cooked chicken wings that I had retrieved from the deli, told me that only one item had a price on it, and that figure didn’t include the cost of the other packages. The cashier said that this gross oversight baffled her. After commiserating with me about the mistake, she left the counter to rectify the problem with the supervisor of the deli workers—but not before mumbling two words that she thought no one would overhear: “F..k it.” I was astounded that the cashier, who had been so unflappable earlier, had lost her composure, if just briefly, never mind resorting to the ultimate crude expletive that registered her disgust.

She took the unpriced containers with her and didn’t return right away. I looked back at the people behind me and shrugged. None of them seemed disturbed by the delay. In fact, the man right next to me smiled and said not to worry, joking “Such is life in the expressively slow lane.” It is hard to suppress the spirit of Aloha, no matter how tempting it is to complain about unexpected roadblocks in our daily lives.  

When the cashier finally arrived, she calmly told me that everything was straightened out. I thanked her for her efforts and almost blurted out “effing A.” Then she graciously offered me two free bags for the chicken wings. Even though that gesture certainly didn’t compensate for the deli’s delinquency, I appreciated her genuine concern.

Although there was no indication that she was still miffed by the deli worker’s price omissions, what I will remember the most about my encounter with the cashier was her ever-so-restrained use of foul language that I just happened to overhear. I’m glad that she let down her guard in that instance. While she didn’t unleash a primal scream, she could no longer be stereotyped as a prim old Asian lady. Muttering the F-word was not just a clerical error: it unmistakably humanized her for me.

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