The wind blew constantly last winter, enough to distinguish that winter from others. It was colder, too. I felt it every time the double-doors slid apart. The foyer did little to contain it. If it wasn’t the double-doors separating then it was the low opening where they push in the shopping carts from outside. Either way, the cold always got in. And I’m expected to wear this red, short-sleeve polo! I didn’t think my fingers and nose would ever warm up!
Shopping brings out the diva in people. It lurks there behind their genial facades, waiting for you to overcharge them (as if the system allows this) or forget to scan a card or coupon or something. I’ve learned to identify that defensive impulse. People come to the store ready to pounce, as if this conveyor belt is the dividing line between the classes, like it’s their right to be so demanding. I’m trying to finish school. I bet half of these fools never even went, at least beyond what was required. And they’re gonna look at me like I’m inferior?
I’d better compose myself. Anyway, last winter. So I’m standing there, doing my thing. Moderate busyness. I ring up a lady with a toddler–cute, kept smiling at me all shy-like and saying over and over, “Bye, bye.” They’re in here a lot. Kids are often the highlight of the day, as long as they’re not screaming. So they finish up and move along. Then comes a girl in her late teens, a bit younger than me but with clear entitlement issues. She didn’t even look up from her phone except to question whether I’d gotten her soda. “Did you get this?” she said in some kind of nasal, affected twang–a hybrid of Nashville and Malibu–probably lifted from some stupid reality show. It’s a curse that I get to remember her, but she probably forgot me as soon as she turned her head. You can feel the condescension from customers like this, even when they’re polite. We all can.
But then the guy who came after! Fidgety and wild-eyed like a wanted man. The things people buy are usually a blur, but his I remember: protein bars and antifreeze. Harmless enough, I guess. But he acted so strange! He acted like the shoplifters that they watch with the cameras, all shifty and conniving, except he didn’t seem to be stealing anything. He didn’t say anything, either. Just handed me a debit card and then took it back afterward with his receipt. Grabbing his bag with calloused fingers (I remember a wedding ring), he was gone, vanishing into the bright cold with little more than a gust to mark his passage. I see my share of weirdos, but this one stuck with me for some reason. It’s like those dreams you remember that seem important but you’re not sure why.