Friday, September 17, 2004

Bad check

I am in the drugstore picking up the pictures from New Orleans. Swamp and alligators mostly. There is only one woman in front of me but I don't notice right away that she has a caddy full of stuff: shampoo, gel for the hair, conditioner, bags, glue, soap, make-up boxes, detergent, laundry powder, bleach... A huge pile of stuff to process. I'm bracing myself for a long wait thinking I will be late for the party tonight at my friend's place.
I look as the cashier is processing each item. Suddenly when the total reaches $70, the woman says "I think this is enough. I'm on a budget". Left are a couple of bags, the bleach, at least one bottle of hair conditioner, a small box of crazy glue and some other items I can't tell what they are. The cashier does not show any surprise. It must happen to her often. She stops and announces a grand total of $71.25. The woman takes out a battered wallet and pulls out a checkbook from the back. She writes down a check, hands it with her driver license. It's her last check. While the check is being processed, the woman is asking questions about the prize of another item she left out. She is now thinking of adding the crazy glue that she really needs. It's too late for a check, so she wants to pay cash for it, or exchange it with another item that she has included in the $71.25 of stuff she is buying now. A little of back and forth between her and the cashier, some bags are put back on the caddy, some are just lifted up and set below the counter. All is done smoothly while the check is still processing. It comes back with a negative answer: the bank is not accepting it. "Try again" she suggests as she is still taking all the bags from the counter and putting them on the caddy. The cashier is nodding. Probably a bad connection with the bank. Second try. Same result. Third try. Same result. The woman is now saying that she does not understand what is happening, but that's ok, she'll come back. She has now taken everything out of the bags, all items that have been scanned. Pill them up in the caddy, put the bag over the caddy, handing back the bags to the cashier. A flurry of activity I don't immediately understand. She is talking while she is doing all of it. She finally settles on the gel for hair that she absolutely needs. She will pay cash for it. About $3 including taxes. Again she turns to the caddy and fuss around it for a minute. Then she disappears apologizing to the guy from the store who's coming to put back all the stuff she has taken off the shells. She'll be back she says. It's my turn now. I ask for my pictures as the guy is inspecting the content of the caddy. Some of the items are missing. I'm not even sure how she pulled that off.


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