A week cashiering at the convenience store and I was bored.
Ring up beer. Ring up chips. Ring up cigarettes.
When you’re a psychology student coping with exorbitant tuition, you’ll take any job.
At first the customers kept me entertained, and some were actually interesting, but I began to observe definite behaviors and it became so predictable.
There were customers who never stopped complaining. There were customers who wanted to stand there and talk and talk and talk, about nothing, holding up the line. There were customers who’d pick up every product in the store and read every label as if they had nothing better to do.
Some of the customers were completely shameless. Right in front of my eyes they stole coins from the little plastic penny tray on the counter.
But one regular customer puzzled me.
The elderly woman came into the store every afternoon. She must’ve had a serious case of osteoporosis because her posture was severely stooped. She wore a bad wig. Standing beside her rickety little cart, the old woman would always lean against the counter and ask for two cheap chicken wings and one lottery ticket. And as she waited, she’d reach into the little plastic penny tray and start fingering the coins, picking them up, staring at one, then another, turning them over.
But she never stole.
The old woman did exactly the same thing every day. She’d reach into that tray, very deliberately turn several pennies over with her fingers, take none.
Obviously she was compulsive.
As I looked down on this pointless behavior it began to bother me. She was certainly poor. I assumed she was tempted by the presence of a few pennies. I concluded that one day she’d steal a coin or two. Like so many other customers.
Money changes people.
“Tell me,” I said one day, feeling more irritated than usual as she turned another coin over. “Why do you do keep doing that?”
She looked up at me, eyes bright. “Heads is lucky.”
I looked down at the little plastic tray. She’d turned every coin heads up.
She’d made the pennies lucky for everyone.