Yesterday at about 7:00 it was busy. There were lines at both registers, and Brittney and I were checking customers like robots. I had just finished ringing someone up - I believe he had some Lunchables, a Slim Jim, and a MoJo Bar. The grand total was $7.00. The guy reached into his wallet, pulled out a hundred dollar bill, and offered it to me.
There are some things at work which cause me instant irk, and this is one of them. When someone just nonchalantly hands me a hundred dollar bill for a purchase under 10 dollars without even asking if I can break it, this is what I feel is being said to me: "I know this is a convenience store and that handing you a hundred dollar bill for a couple of items is a hassle. I know it holds up the line and I know that it's going to wipe out your register. I know all of this, and I don't give a crap. This is about ME, and I want my hundred dollar bill broken."
Now, I understand if all the customer has is a hundred dollar bill, and although it's still a faux pas to try to break one in a convenience store for a small purchase, I'll usually go ahead if it's not too busy, and if the customer asks first before handing it to me. However, at that moment it was busy, and the guy didn't ask. Instant irk.
I said to the guy, "Dude... dude, no. I can't break that." The guy looked at me and waited for a few seconds. I said, "You gotta warn a guy about this." He just stood there. I wondered if he thought I was kidding. "No. I can't break a hundred," I repeated. He looked over at Brittney. She was busy too, with a line of about 5 people. "Can she break it?" he asked, nodding toward her. I sighed inwardly, trying to hold back my irritation. "I don't know. Brittney?" Brittney finished with her customer and went through her drawer. She had a few 10 dollar bills. "No, I can't break it right now either."
The guy looked at me again and just stood there with the hundred in his hand, as if he still expected me to take it. People were waiting, and my irritation was growing. He didn't leave. I thought to myself, 'Why do people do this? Why do they consistently try to break their big bills here, at 7-Eleven, a convenience store? Surely they know that we don't keep a lot of cash in the drawer, right? It even says it, right there on the door. Is he really just completely unaware of this little unwritten social rule, or does he just not give a crap?' He didn't look like he was ready to leave, so I had two choices... I could either be rude and dismiss him by motioning for the next customer, or I could be rude and say something to him. I probably should have just motioned for the next customer.
Me: "You should know better than to try to break a hundred dollar bill at a convenience store for a small purchase like that. I mean... come one. People just know these things. It's common sense."
Him: He thrust the bill at me and said, "It's money!" This is where I realized that he just didn't give a crap. Nothing else mattered to him. It was money, I should take it, and to hell with everything else.
Me: "This isn't Kroger, it's a small store. We don't keep a lot of money in the drawer. It even says it, right there..." I motioned towards where it was printed on the door.
Him: He got angry. "Fuck it," he said. He shoved the items across the counter at me, muttered "idiot" under his breath, and began to walk away. I started to say something to him again about the sign on the door, but he kept walking, said something else that I didn't quite hear, and exited the store. Well, I just seen red. Again. Before the door shut, I fairly shouted after him, "Only idiots bring hundred dollar bills into a convenience store!"
The door closed. The guy stopped, turned, and looked at me, his face red. The visage he offered was one of pure, seething anger... maybe even hatred. He balled his fists at his sides and made as if to come back into the store. I turned away from him. With my peripheral vision I saw as he stopped again, turned around, and strode stiffly away.
Of course, everyone in the store had witnessed the little encounter, but I was too upset at the moment to feel embarrassed. The next customer was waiting, so I went back to my drawer and began to check her. After a moment of awkward silence, she asked me how I was doing.
Me: "Oh, fair to middlin', I suppose." (I say that a lot when people ask me how I'm doing if I'm not feeling particularly well)
Her: "What did you say?"
Me: "Fair to middlin'."
Her: What? Fair to mid-what?"
Me: "Middlin'. It means fair -" (I placed my palm slightly above the counter to illustrate 'fair' as being somewhat low) - to middlin'." (I raised my palm up to about chest height) "Middlin' meaning, you know. Just ok. Middle, I guess."
Her: "Huh. I've never heard that one. Fair to middlin'."
Me: "Yeah, my grandma used to say it." (I can't remember if she used to say it or not, but it seemed likely that I would have picked it up from some old country sage, since it has that old-timey kind of flavor to it)
Her: "Cool. I have a book that describes the origins of old sayings like that. I'll have to look it up later and see if it's there. Bye!" (she smiled and left)
I was a little surprised by such a friendly exchange, what with it occurring right on the heels of such an unpleasant one. I wondered briefly if she had been extra nice and personable out of the fear that I might cast my retribution upon her. However the general atmosphere of the store was one of amity, understanding, recognition, acknowledgment... union. As if all of the customers agreed that the guy with the hundred dollar bill was a jackass, and they were approving of the way I'd handled it. However, I wasn't as sure of that as they seemed to be.
We continued with the customers. After the rush was over, Brittney asked me if I was ok. She knows how upset I get with myself when I get angry for whatever reason. I looked at her and smiled. "I'm fine. Thanks." I paused for a second to consider, then said, "I know I got a little angry just then, but I can't deny it... calling that guy an idiot had felt good."
Just one more thing to add to my list of confessions.