Monday Morning

Monday Morning

“And your change is one dollar and sixty-eight cents,” the cashier told Ashley, as she gently closed the register drawer and stepped back toward the coffee machine. 

“It’ll be just a minute.”

Ashley took her receipt and looked at her change, realizing that she had been shorted by a nickel. As she stood there waiting for her order, she stared at her new shoes and began to think.

What if I were shorted by five cents every time I made a transaction? That could add up to a hundred dollars a year, maybe more.

If that prissy little girl took a nickel every time that someone paid in cash, then she could be making five bucks a day just pulling off her little scam. She seems honest, but so does every other scam artist in the world. They smile and they yes-ma’am you, and five minutes later you’re short a nickel.

But that’s silly. She’s young and in a hurry and when you’re in a hurry you just make mistakes. If I started up trouble every time someone made an honest mistake, why I’d just spend my life complaining about people. God knows I’ve made my share of mistakes.

Still, this is a learning opportunity. She’s probably still in high school, and this is the sort of thing you need to know in the real world. That it’s fine being pretty, but that there’s more to it than that. You also have to get it right. People count on you, and you can’t just rush into it.

“It’ll be just another minute, ma’am. They’re cooking some fresh hash browns.”

“That’s fine, no hurry, I’m good.”

I’m not good! Why do I say things like that? It’s only a nickel, but I’m going to be thinking about it all day. Which is stupid. When she gets back with my order, then I’ll just casually mention it. I’ll say something like, “Oh, I’m saving change for my nephew’s classroom fundraiser, so I noticed that I’m missing a nickel here.” She won’t think I’m cheap or weird if I say it like that.

Am I really going to say something about a stupid nickel? You could take all of the nickels that I’ve ever held in my hand, and I bet they wouldn’t add up to a car payment. But am I just saying that because I’m afraid that I’ll embarrass myself. Am I trying to use cognitive dissonance as a way to get out of doing something that’s going to make me look stupid?

My grandpa told me once that he knew a man so cheap, that he’d hold a nickel so tight that the buffalo would holler. Maybe I could make a joke about that to her. But she wouldn’t get it, it’s an old joke. Or maybe she would, because don’t some nickels have buffaloes on them now? Or is it a bison? Are they the same thing?

OK, those have to be my hash browns that are waiting there. I’m actually in a hurry to get to work, so I won’t say anything, because I need to go. Why is the cashier also having to work the drive-through window? I need to look up “cognitive dissonance” to be sure I’m using that right. What if I’ve been using that term the wrong way for all these years? I don’t want to be like those people who say irregardless. What was that movie where the guy said “That word you keep using, I don’t think it means what you think it means?”

“Number fourteen! This is your order ma’am, chicken biscuit, hash browns, small coffee. Anything else?”

Ashley looked at the change in her hand, then realized that the nickel had simply been resting underneath one of the quarters. She kept staring at the coins scattered across her palm as she slowly walked to her car and drove away. There was no other sound except the silence of her mind. 

Twenty-three minutes later she pulled into her office parking lot and took a moment to breathe, to calm.

I’m fine, I’m good, I’m totally, absolutely fine. It’s just Monday. I’ve got this!

Four miles and 12 stoplights away, the cashier threw away Ashley’s forgotten breakfast.


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