I was just shopping at my local grocery store. I’m in the checkout line as someone else is finishing, all my stuff is on the conveyer belt thing, and I remembered that my wife asked me to pick up some chocolate that she likes. It’s not far from the cash register, so I bolt and get it. The cashier’s started ringing me up, and he gives me a look. The look reminded me of a similar one I was going to get if I forgot the Diet Coke that Anette’s sister had requested and was one of the main points of my little jaunt to the store, so I bolted again and brought back 2 two-liter bottles. He was still ringing me up, so I hadn’t really held anyone up, but my man looks genuinely salty. I tried to make a joke, “Do NOT go home without the Diet Coke.” Ha ha ha. He looks at me like I’m a piece of shit, and then gets to my liquor purchase.

Doesn’t really matter, but Michelob has a new wheat beer out, it’s not bad, sort of Belgian Trappist wheatey, like a poor man’s Chimay or something. And, the introductory price is $1.99 for a six pack. (!) So I’m buying two six packs. You have to spend money to make money, right? Even if the beer sucks, I can always just give it to guests.

When he gets to the beer, in his most perfect robot voice he says, “ID please.” I shrug, say sure, and start to dig for it. The cashier next to us turns around and she looks at me and at him, and she says, “Why are you hassling customers? You’ve seen this guy 30 times before.”

“I’m in a bad mood.” He holds my ID, doesn’t look at it, and hands it back to me. (He has really, really good peripheral vision.)

I turned to the other cashier and smiled and said, “It’s my gift. I always know how to bring out the best in people.”

I’d passed the word “best” and she knew where I was going and  she started guffawing at an alarming volume. HAW HAW HAW!!! The teenager bagging my groceries starts snickering, too, she’s trying to stifle it but that only makes it come out more obviously. The teenager bagging for the other cashier starts laughing, and the new guy cashiering on the other side starts busting up, too. Dude was probably in a foul mood all day and I’d probably just broken some kind of tension I wasn’t aware of, or maybe someone else had just said the same thing, or, well, I don’t really know.

So it’s awkward up in this joint, especially with people slowing down their shopping carts and gathering to see what’s going on. I look at my cashier. He’s looking at me like I’m even more of a piece of shit now and cocks his head back just a little, sort of like the “dramatic chipmunk” Youtube clip – (that’s the name, even though it looks an awful lot like a prairie dog to me) – or maybe a Cypress Hill wannabe doing one of those under-the-bandana “Hey, ese – don’t you know I’m loco?” insane-in-the-membrane looks.

He doesn’t look at me when he asks, “Credit or debit?”

He looks at my multitude of shopping bags and says, “Hey man – do you need a cart?” I politely decline. “Are you sure?” I politely decline once again. “Should I put those beers in a bag?” I decline once again, also politely, and eventually manage to just get out of the store. It’s a good sign, though. Maybe he doesn’t hate me. I care for some reason. Seriously.

I’m the Chosen One. I stroll the countryside passing out unsolicited lessons in Zen wisdom. I just don’t know it until it happens, and even then I don’t quite understand what’s happened. That’s my real gift.

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