I'M at Target. If you must know, I was buying a wire-mesh wastebasket. Okay, since you're now saying "Wastebasket? I thought the Riley household didn't waste anything", it was to house my collection of juggling balls, beanbags, clubs, and cigar boxes formerly located on a chair in my office, plus somewhere to the south, east, west, and north somewhat. Anyway, I have one item. I'm heading for the checkout. I am ready, I think, for anything.
My new Target is now a few months old, meaning that even if the economy weren't in the crapper they'd be cutting back on cashiers by now. So there's a little back-up, but I manage to find a line that's wrapping up one customer with only one ahead of me. And yes, I should have known this was an ill-omen, thanks.
Now, the woman in front of me is older than I, maybe approaching elderly, but she also looks like one of the professional elderly, like she smelled something unpleasant in 1962 and her face stuck like that. Plus her dress code is strictly First Thanksgiving.
So the first thing that happens is that while her purchases are being rung up an equal-sized pile is remaining behind on the conveyor belt, and in front of the pile is what appears to be a Target gift-card. I immediately figure I've managed to get behind a phantom shopper. You know the sort? There's one person in line ahead of you, but she accounts for three or four separate transactions, because not only can none of her friends venture out in pursuit of their own sundries, none of them can do math or make change. Which does tend to call into question all the Chicken Little reports about modern public education.
But hey, okay, there are shut-ins and such; I'm a charitable fellow. But it seems to me that if you need someone else to do your shopping you could just kick in the change for travel expenses, plus maybe I'd like to get the medicine home before Baby's croup gets any worse. But, okay. Ready for anything. I'm now a couple feet back from the transaction, because her stuff is still spread across the entire length of the conveyor, and the cashier gives her the first total, and she says--do not get ahead of me--but the shelf said it was on sale for $40, not $70.
And the cashier explains that the item rings up for full price, but then she gets the discount.
Now, I'm not sure it precisely was a gift card, but whatever it was the clerk instructed her to swipe it through the credit card deal, and this was a foreign concept to her. You have my complete sympathy, lady. But it's enough of a mystery that the two of them manage to complete a register pas de deux that locks everything up for forty-five seconds. Then there's a couple more swipes, one by each, before it takes, and the Grant Wood painting come to life is just sort of standing there, frozen, and the clerk hands her the stylus and says, you have to sign.
At this point I am thanking god I didn't go with the cast-iron wastebasket.
Now she looks down at the little screen, and suddenly she's got the eyes of a twenty-year old. "But this says I agree to pay this amount. I don't agree. It's supposed to be forty dollars, not seventy!"
So the cashier explains, yes, well, we have to do this in this order; your final price will be $40, which will be taken off at the end of the transaction.
"But I don't agree to pay $70."
"You're not paying $70. It will..."
"But it says I agree."
"Just a moment, m'am."
"It says 'I agree'. I don't agree."
I will give the clerk credit; when she hit the button to light up the flashing beacon for "Manager needed" it was without any sign of rancor. Professionalism is professionalism.
I was simultaneously selecting which of the remaining three lines I wanted to be third in, unfortunately failing to adjust for the breeze from the guy behind me shoving into it first. That one moved along as expected, about a quarter off Indifferent. I'd made it to next up when back behind me the second manager arrived to reinforce the first, who was looking like a man who'd just realized he left his pills in a different jacket.