This is an example of why I don’t leave the house.
“That’ll be $78.11, please,” said the overly peppy cashier. A pin on her red smock read, “Have a Happy Happy Day!”
“78 dollars?” I replied. “How is that possible?”
The cashier glanced over at my groceries, which were now piled up at the end of the conveyor belt waiting to be bagged. “Dairy and produce are expensive,” she said.
I leaned over and lifted a Styrofoam carton. “These are chicken eggs, right? Or did I grab the pterodactyl eggs by mistake?” The cashier responded with a confused smile.
“Do you want to cash out now, sir?” she asked.
I reluctantly removed my debit card from my pocket and swiped it through the card reader.
“Would you like to donate $1 today to help feed starving children?” she inquired.
“You’re feeding dollar bills to starving children?” I replied.
The cashier’s face flushed. “No. All money goes to the local food bank.”
“No thank you,” I said as I tried to follow the prompts on the screen.
The cashier grunted. “It’s just a dollar. The children would appreciate the support.”
I looked up only to be greeted by a set of disapproving eyes.
OMG, I thought. She’s judging me.
“Okay, wait a minute,” I said defensively. “I donate a ton of time and money to various charities. I just paid for a woman’s groceries here last week. Doesn’t that count?”
The woman glared at me.
“Listen,” I demanded. “I’m very generous. I really am. I just don’t want to donate my money this way.”
The old woman behind me in line felt the need to chime in. “It’s a dollar. Don’t be so stingy.” She slammed a gallon of milk on the conveyor belt. “Let’s get this line going.”
My heart was pounding. I was officially irritated. I looked around to find sympathetic eyes. Nothing. People three aisles away were glaring at me. Fingers pointed. I overheard someone whisper, “He won’t donate a dollar?”
A young guy approached us and began to stuff my groceries into plastic bags.
I leaned toward him. “I’m not the monster they think I am,” I said softly.
He looked at me as if I were trying to lure him into my van.
“I’m a volunteer,” I added.
The bagger looked to his colleague. “He won’t donate the dollar,” she said.
The guy’s face soured as if he had just taken a big whiff of a dirty diaper.
“Okay, I get it,” I said. I turned to face the long line behind me. “You all think I’m some greedy bastard who doesn’t care about starving children. Well you’re wrong.”
I stood up on my tip-toes to make eye contact with the glaring customers in the aisle just beyond mine. “I fucking love starving children.” Oh God, what was I saying. “Well, that’s not how I meant it to come out. I mean I love the children who just happen to be starving.” Ugh. “I mean…” I paused. “What I was trying to say was…”
The store manager approached the register and allowed her glasses to slide down her nose. “I can’t wait to hear this.”
Why did I not bring Xanax with me? “Just add the dollar to my bill,” I pleaded.
“It’s too late, sir,” the cashier replied. “I already cashed you out.” She slapped the receipt into my hand. “Have a Happy Happy Day!” she hissed.
I grabbed my goods and entered into what I believe was the world’s longest walk of shame. I felt like Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter as she walked out of the jailhouse and into the crowd of unaccepting neighbors. If anyone is looking for me, I’ll be homebound for, oh, the next 20 years, or at least until I can get a better prescription of Xanax.