Late March, early April is one of my most favorite times of the year. I always anticipate the numerous trips to various greenhouses and garden supply stores. The annual essentials include hanging Boston ferns for the front porch, Kimberly queen ferns for the urns that flank either side of the front door, fire ant killer, grass seed for patching, impatiens, bougainvillea (if I can find it) and another hydrangea bush (because I killed the one I bought the year prior).
Three weeks ago, I made my first Lowe’s run for a few of the essentials. I’d loaded my small shopping cart with ferns, a few garden hose guides, and a bag of Over n’ Out. When I approached the checkout counter, the polite young cashier insisted that I not unload my cart but let her walk around the counter and scan each item with her wireless scanner. I was happy to accommodate her request. When she finished and gave me the total for my purchase I ran my bank card, punched in my pin, and a few seconds later heard the dreaded beeping sound that comes from the register when your card is declined. My stomach dropped. I took a quick glace at who might be standing in line behind me so I could see how embarrassed I should be. I thought I would vomit right there in front of the Miracle Grow and the Pocket Hose display. The cashier must have sensed mild panic in my voice when I sheepishly asked, “can I try again,” because she gently reached across the counter for my card and quietly said “Let me try to run it at the register. The one on your side has been messing up all day.”
The second time around my card ran through just fine with crisis, vomit and panic attack all averted. I was thankful for how tactful the young cashier was at handing the situation. Perhaps she was embarrassed for me. What she didn’t know was that years ago I was in a very similar situation which didn’t turn out nearly as good. In fact, it is that situation that makes me breakout into full blown hives nearly every time I scan my debit card.
It was about 5 years ago. I walked into the neighborhood Walgreens to pick up shampoo, razors, and pictures I’d had developed (yes, they still did that 5 years ago). My best friend Jason tagged along for the trip. After waiting in a preposterously long line at the only register open, I assembled my handful of items on the counter. I was greeted by a woman, small in stature but round in the middle. She wore glasses and her hair was cut like my Uncle Barry’s. As she scanned each of my items I noticed her short, sausage-like fingers. Though quite rote and loud, she was friendly. She seemed to take her job very seriously and that showed in her professionalism, which at times seemed somewhat over the top. Even still, I had a hard time figuring her out, but I continued to try as the line of people behind me continued to grow. Just as she was finishing her scan of my items, I figured it out. She was intellectually challenged, but only a little (I think). I immediately felt bad for mentally comparing her fingers to Jimmy Dean breakfast links. Here she was, a woman who despite her challenges, went out, found a damn job, and was working that job with all of the professionalism she could possibly muster. I smiled when she asked if I would like to add a pack of peanut M&Ms to my purchase and politely declined. The line behind me was still growing. She eventually gave me a total and I swiped my card. Then out of nowhere I hear a voice shout –
I quickly looked at Jason who was staring at me, his eyes huge. “Did she just say that shit over the loud speaker?” the look on my face must have said. It certainly sounded like she was on the loud speaker, but she was really just that loud.
Far too embarrassed to look at the people in line behind me, I hung my head and murmured to the lady that I would like to run my card again. She agreed and ran the card a second time.
“DECLINED,” she yelled again. I looked at Jason and this time he was having a difficult time keeping a straight face. I looked at the gentleman who was in line directly behind me and whispered “I’m sorry.” He only nodded.
I asked the cashier to run the card a third time. She was happy to.
“NOPE,” she yelled.
“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME,” I thought. Not because my card was declined now for the third time but because this woman was yelling my denial status to the entire store. Jason was in a full-blown howl by this point and was walking away from me. He had to be utterly humiliated to even be seen with me.
In my final push to avoid walking out of Walgreen’s empty handed, I asked the cashier to run the card a fourth time, but this time as credit. Back to her professional self, she obliged.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOPE! STILL DECLINED,” she yelled.
This time it was so loud, I was sure she’d announced it over the intercom.
At that point I’d had just about all of the sheer embarrassment I could handle for one day. Jason was nowhere to be found and the people in line behind me had started to groan. I gave up. I was completely defeated – wholly subjugated by a special Walgreens employee. I was pissed.
I went home and prayed that night that God would forgive me for the sausage fingers thing and for wanting to jump across the counter each time she announced, with total enthusiasm, that my card had been declined.
I hope he has forgiven me but chances are slim because every time I scan my debit card, every damn time, I think of sausage fingers while I listen for the dreaded beep.