Posted By Caulimovirus on June 28, 2007
“Based On Extraordinarily Dull True Events”
.: The total came to nineteen dollars and seventy-six cents. Not wanting to manage six lesser coins when one would do, he used a trick that worked at most stores.
.: â€œI think I have a penny on me,â€ he said. He didnâ€™t, but he knew a cursory search in both pockets would convince the cashier to proceed with the transaction as if he did. By the time he corrected himself his receipt had already printed.
.: â€œDonâ€™t worry about it,â€ said the cashier, handing over an agreeable quarter along with the receipt. Victory.
.: He grabbed his bags of milk, eggs, cheese, bread, cereal, and ice cream and meandered carefree towards the exit. He paused to rearrange his grip when a girl he thought he recognized rushed past him. He only chanced to see her profile, but that was enough to convince him.
.: He debated silently whether he should sprint to catch up with her. He knew her name was Laura or Lauren, but guessing one over the other and getting it wrong would be far more devastating than simply guessing wrong altogether. Before he could reach a decision, she stopped just a few aisles in front of him. Three seconds passed, and she turned around slowly, looking upwards at the ceiling, as if tracking a stray bird.
.: Her red collared shirt and wrinkle-free khakis indicated that she worked here. The white rectangular nametag and black walkie-talkie were dead giveaways. Her curly hair possessed a strange quality that caused it to repel itself, almost as if her hand were permanently wrapped around a portable Van der Graaf generator. This made her face seem far smaller than it actually was. She was definitely Lauren. Or Laura.
.: He sidestepped an overflowing shopping cart that merged itself between them. He drew closer to introduce himself until he saw her nametag more clearly: Hi, my name is ALLISON.
.: He tried to turn around and walk the other way, but he stalled just long enough for her to ask, â€œYes? How can I help you?â€ Her eyes opened wider and her head nodded slightly â€“ subtle clues adopted subconsciously to let the customer know they were receiving this employeeâ€™s full attention.
.: â€œOh, nothing. I thought you were somebody else.â€ He continued walking towards the exit, changing his gait to match his mood. Heâ€™d embarrassed himself again, but this was nothing too great to deal with. It was another minor defeat that exists solely to negate those equally minor triumphs, like finding a parking spot near the front entrance, catching a bus at just the right moment, or cheating a cashier out of a penny.
.: He would have forgotten about her in about twenty minutes had she not asked, â€œWho did you think I was?â€
.: He spun around a bit too quickly and lost his balance. His right foot slipped back to compensate, while he raised his arms at the same time to distract her from his flailing feet. The latter move only added to the overall spectacle. He regained his composure and said, nonchalantly, â€œI thought you were Lauren.â€
.: â€œLaura,â€ she corrected, â€œThatâ€™s me.â€
.: Every damn time, he thought.
.: He kicked himself for a few more seconds, which made him appear shy and uncomfortable. Sensing his discomfort, Laura asked a question to help him along, â€œHow do you know me?â€
.: â€œOh, I know Steven.â€
.: This answer did not bring their tenuous connection into focus, a fact demonstrated by the utter lack of change in her countenance. He offered another clue, spoken in a panicky tone he hadnâ€™t heard himself use since high school, â€œI came down with Paulâ€¦â€
.: â€œOh yes! Now I remember.â€ She relaxed a little bit, finally able to abandon the standard employee/customer communication protocol.
.: â€œYour nametag threw me off.â€
.: Another female employee approached them and interrupted his explanation. She looked about four to five years Lauraâ€™s junior and was about as many feet tall. A frail, wiry woman and her fat, wobbly son followed her.
.: â€œThis womanâ€™s shopping cart was stolen,â€ explained the junior employee, who promptly vanished.
.: A look of confusion found a comfortable home on the womanâ€™s face. Each hand was rubbing the other, and she adopted a pose one normally would adopt after witnessing a horrific accident at a playground. â€œI just turned around for a few minutes and it was gone.â€
.: â€œSomebody might have grabbed it by mistake, thinking it was theirs,â€ Laura explained carefully, as if the possibility never crossed the womanâ€™s mind, which it hadnâ€™t. â€œDid your cart have a lot of items in it?â€
.: â€œNo, just some bread and apples.â€
.: What do you expect her to do about it? Just go back and pick out some more bread and apples, he thought to himself. He figured Laura must have been thinking the same thing (or something very similar), but then he reasoned sheâ€™s probably accustomed to these kinds of complaints. Observing her newly adopted body language, he surmised she had switched over to some sort of autopilot program carefully crafted and practiced to filter the more tedious aspects of handling customers. His autopilot hypothesis at least explained why she no longer acknowledged his presence â€“ not even a quick, reassuring glance.
.: The womanâ€™s son was bored. A black wire ran from his pocket up to his bulky headphones, which clipped the small wireless headset clamped to his ear. He shifted all of his weight onto one foot and sighed occasionally. From the emotionless stare on his face, one could easily tell he knew from innumerable past experiences not to attempt to convince his mother to do anything as insulting as picking out another shopping cart. Especially not while some vagrant is out there with their stolen goods.
.: â€œHow long were you away from the cart?â€ Laura asked. She knew any answer was irrelevant. She only had to ask enough questions to make it seem like she wanted to resolve the poor womanâ€™s problem. Without waiting for a response, she continued, â€œIt could be, if you were away too long, somebody could have taken it, an employee, could have taken it back to Returns to have it restocked. We could go check there.â€
.: He quickly calculated how odd it would seem if he followed Laura and the woman to the back of the store, and the results were prohibitively awkward. Instead, he opted for a two finger wave and a curt, â€œSo long.â€
.: Laura flicked off her autopilot program and, before he could walk away, asked, â€œWhat was your name again?â€
.: This was a pleasant surprise. He didnâ€™t expect his timid wave to actually capture her attention. Even though the old woman disrupted his first attempt at a full-fledged conversation with her, she hadnâ€™t completely ignored him. An overall success, he concluded.
.: He answered her question and left.