I rarely ask for your feedback and dear readers, you rarely offer it, but this post will be an exception. I want…nay…I need your thoughts on an experience I had this morning at the hustling, bustling grocery store where I shop weekly. So please read this post and comment, if you would be so kind.
Now, permit me to preface this tome with two important things: First, at the risk of bragging, I try very hard to be a generous person. So much so, I’ve been called a sucker in the past. But that’s because I’ve lived on the dirty, unpaved shoulder of the road too well travelled, at the intersection of Want and Need. I know what being destitute feels like. It’s something I don’t want to repeat or see others endure. Secondly, no one is exactly catching me at my best these days. I’m working through a number of things and operating without filters seems to be part of the problem.
Now, to the story at hand.
I was standing line at the check out counter, two weeks worth of groceries were crammed on the conveyor belt before me. Two women were ahead of me; their transactions went without a hitch. I approached the cashier and smiled–the usual routine. But she didn’t say hello, there was no greeting of any kind. Instead, she asked me in slightly broken English, ‘I’m so hungry, will you buy me a Twix candy bar?”
I automatically said yes because we’ll, that’s what I do. I looked at the cash register and the first item on the digital receipt was a Twix bar for $1.75. A meager buck-75. But it wasn’t followed by a thank you. Not a hint of gratitude, not even an over eager explanation of why she was hungry or why she needed me to buy her a candy bar at her place of employment.
Now, I’m well aware this behavior is isn’t uncommon at all in the world receiving end of philanthropy. Sometimes, embarrassment prevents gratitude. I understand this and usually, it doesn’t bother me, but today it did. So, I asked Mata Hungry who was in between checking out a few Lean Cuisines and some cat food, if she neglected to bring her lunch with her to work.
I asked if she didn’t have any money with her. She was too engrossed in scanning my eight pack of toilet paper to respond. I wasn’t giving up. I asked her if she was given a discount for groceries since she’s an employee. She said yes and I asked her why then couldn’t she have afforded me the discount since I was willing to pay for her candy bar.
“Too much bother”, she said as she stuffed the Twix in the pocket of her smock.
I thought for a second and then asked her, if I came in to the store and was hungry, would she buy me a Twix, to which she responded, “Look Lady, I’ll put it back if it’s so much trouble.”
I’m steaming by this point, so I leaned in and I told her no, that wouldn’t be necessary BUT… hers was a highly unusual question to be asked by a person employed by a store literally surrounded by food. She just stared at me and then I said, “If I were you, I’d show a little gratitude and if you can’t do that, I’d be very careful next time who I asked to buy me a candy bar while on duty at the check out line, because you’re so rude, no doubt your ass would end up eating most of that Twix!”
She said something unintelligible—I’m not sure what it was, but I feel certain sure it wasn’t about having dinner together anytime soon. We just looked at each other for a split second. My expression was disbelief and anger, hers was actually righteous by God indignation. Seriously. How do some people feel so entitled and be seemingly unworthy at the same time?
Her attention immediately focused on the person in line behind me. She had her Twix. I’d become nothing more to her than customer flotsam.
I know…I know….’twas a Twix candy bar at $1.75. She wasn’t asking for the moon, but this morning that wasn’t the point. Having lived in Houston for so long, I know how panhandlers operate. I’m actually fascinated by people who have the balls or the desperation or the odd sense of entitlement that allows them to approach absolute strangers and ask for money. It’s something I don’t think I could do unless dire circumstances compelled me, but the need to buy a rock of crack or a quart of Mad Dog to stop the DTs don’t fall under that category.
I’ve tried buying food for “homeless” street corner operators only to have it thrown back in my car. Contrary to the cardboard signs they held, they only wanted the money. But that didn’t stop me from making sandwich and water gestures in the future. And of most of the people who actually took food from me, were able to express a semblance of gratitude.
But that’s not why one does something like this. There’s only glory in quiet, sincere giving. It should never include a press release or a camera crew. And receiving a ‘thank you’ isn’t the impetus to give, but every once in a while, it’s certainly nice to hear.
That wasn’t the case in the grocery store this morning. This woman had pure audacity. She wasn’t starving….she was of medium build. I noticed she wore some jewelry. Her hair was highlighted. She was relatively young, wore make-up and above all, she was employed. And her choice of food to quellthis incredible hunger she had was rather telling…a decent deli was 50 feet away and she chose a candy bar, of all things.
So, I ask you this question: Why? By the time she got to me in line, was she any hungrier than she was three minutes earlier? Did the lady ahead of me with the cart filled with four cabbages and ice cream not seem gullible enough, so she wasn’t asked? Would the person in line behind me be hit up for steaks?
I drove home trying to justify her rudeness as possibly being a cultural thing, but that was impossible. The words ‘thank you’ exist in every language, gratitude is practiced in every culture. What’s odd is that I shop at this store regularly. I’ve never seen her before. While cashier turnover is high, they usually last a couple of weeks. But she was new. I contemplated telling the manager, but it wasn’t a battle I felt like fighting. Besides, karma was on my side, regardless of my crass threat. .
Then, I wondered if maybe this was some kind of divine test….the angel unawares thing. Nah, no angel would be that rude. And if by some slim chance she had been an angel, I failed the test miserably because while I bought the candy bar as she had asked, I also told her I’d basically shove it up her ass.
What happened today was so minor as events go, and it won’t keep me up at night, and while I’m not necessarily proud of the lack of poise and restraint exercised in my response to her, I’m not rushing to a confessional either. It was all just so odd.
Your thoughts, please?