Years ago, I worked at a grocery store as a cashier. I had a long line of customers one day. Standing in front of me was a woman, holding the hand of a little boy, and a man standing behind her. I smiled at her, and grabbed the first item off of the belt to scan.
She let out a piercing shriek. I dropped the twelve-pack of Coke I was holding, and gasped out, “What’s wrong?”
She pointed at the man behind her, shouting, “You rang him up before me!”
At the moment, there wasn’t much sense in explaining to her that I had just grabbed the first item, assuming it belonged to the next customer in line. I hadn’t noticed the bag of donuts she was clutching to her heaving bosom. (Hell, she could have saved us all the turmoil by putting them on the belt to claim her place in line.)
I sure noticed the bag of donuts after she screamed, because she threw them at me. I had the presence of mind to dodge, and they splattered on the board which seperates the side of the register from the next line.
I was flecked with cream, but otherwise unharmed by the missile. Shaking, I bent over, picked up the donut bag, and threw it in my garbage receptacle. The woman didn’t even pause to note my reaction. She bolted from the line, screaming as if being stabbed. Down and up the row of registers she ran, emitting wordless shrieks. The little boy she had left behind started sobbing. “No, Mommy! Not again!” he wailed.
The woman came back to my register, shaking her finger in my face. “Give me my donuts!”
“But, ma’am,” I stammered. “You threw them at me. They splattered.”
"I did not!" she said in an outraged tone of voice. “You ate them, didn’t you?”
“Lady, you need to take your pills,” the man who had stood behind her in line said mildly.
She bared her teeth at him, like a dog, grabbed the little boy roughly, and stormed out.
Pretty odd reaction, eh? But she’s not really the one the story is about. My manager’s reaction seemed even odder to me.
My manager came up then, red faced. Through gritted teeth, she told me to lock down my register and report to the break room. I couldn’t believe she looked angry at me. Just a young thing was I, and like a lot of young things in such a stressful situation, I burst into tears and fled the floor.
As I went back to the break room, the security officer came out of his room, and handed me a cold drink. He told me to calm down, that he had seen the whole thing. He would explain to my manager that it wasn’t my fault.
She would have none of it. Steadfastly, she maintained that ultimately it was my fault. The customer had left unhappy after an interaction with me, and now probably had a “bad image” of the store. Not only that, but other customers had seen me make that woman so infuriated. She did agree, after some persuasion, not to fire me, but to just put a write-up of the incident in my file.
Just a young thing was I, and through my haze of tears, I barely read the statement she wrote before I signed it.
When I told my father about it that night, he told me to get a copy of the statement. He told me that, legally, I was entitled to a copy of anything I signed. The manager saw it differently, and flatly refused me a copy. She said she would “write someting out” for me if I insisted, but would not even let me see the statement.
To this day, I have no idea to what I admitted. I have a vision of my future biographer coming across this document, in which I admit to beating a customer over the head with a bag of eclairs.