“I’d like to price match, those, please.” The woman in front of me pointed at the butter I had just scanned through.
I stopped mid-scan on a loaf of bread. It scanned twice. I flinched, hit the void button and scanned it again. Repeated with the butter. Tried the price match, which of course did not go through. Called for an override via the speakers. Accidentally said “Override to lane three, please. Love you bye.” Blushed like mad. Laughed it off to the customer who was impatiently waiting. Explained the delay.
Another day in the life of a cashier! My inner monologue began. Only halfway through her shift, Keri has managed to embarrass herself where the whole store could hear her!
“Young lady. Excuse me. Young lady!”
I snapped back to the present. “Yes, Your Majesty?” I flinched again. Almost the present. “I’m so sorry, what is it?”
Her lipstick formed a sneer. “Why is this machine not working? I’ve had my card in here for at least a minute, and nothing’s showing up.”
“Because I haven’t put the total to the machine yet—”
“And why not?”
“I still need an override for the price match on the butter, so you can get that great price.”
“And I suppose she’ll need to see it again, too.”
I affirmed, and she pursed said lipstick while doing the arduous task of pulling her phone back out of her purse to pull up the price match. By now it was obvious that no one had heard my call, so I did it again. Correctly: “Override to lane three, please; override to lane three. Thank you!” Perfect lilt included.
“I’m right here, Hon.” Mary tapped my shoulder. I turned, and she smirked. “I’ve been waiting for you to move.”
She squeezed into the till beside me and began to type with her ridiculously long nails. I marvelled at the skills required for such a feat.
“Call me if you need me again!” she said over her shoulder as she ducked back into the fray of shopping carts and customers.
The lady paid and went around the end to pack her groceries, then fixed me with another annoyed look.
I handed her the plastic bags I had forgotten to put on her tab. “Enjoy the rest of your day!”
She ignored me, which I had suspected she would. I turned to the next customer with the biggest smile physically possible. I dare you to be grumpy, I mentally projected. The beeping of all nine tills, every till a different tone and pattern, surrounded me like a giant chorus, mixed with voices of all ages.
The next customer was much nicer, and the next, and the next. There were so many! Every time I dared to look down the line, it looked longer. Christmas shopping was always my favourite time to work. It was crazy busy, and I had to work fast and hard. I loved it. Except—
“I’d like to price match that butter, please.”
I could feel a wry grin spread over my face. “Of course you would.”
“I’m sorry.” I was very good at apologizing. “I’ve had this price match already today, and it’s too good a deal to pass the computer. I’ll have to call for an override.”
“Alright.” She smiled back pleasantly. “It would be handy if you could do it yourself; you certainly are a good cashier. I don’t see why you haven’t been promoted already.”
This thought was not new to me. But still— why wasn’t I? Mary came and did the override, and I took the few seconds of reprieve to look at my line. It was gone! There were still a few other customers, but they were being helped by different cashiers.
“Hon, you wanna go for break?” Mary put the sign on the end of my till and motioned me away.
“One question, Mar— how do I become override?”
“You wanna be an override? How come?”
“It’d be a lot easier, for price matching especially.”
“I figured you’d ask sooner or later. Customers always move faster through your till than the others, and it’d be handy to not always have to come to your rescue all the time. Especially when butter’s on sale.”
I grinned back. “So, how?”
“You’re pretty close, really. Just keep being a great cashier! Oh— and no voids. Now go! I’ve got more breaks to do today yet.”
I all but ran to the back of the store, dodged a forklift, and ran up the stairs. My combination took three tries, as usual, but it worked. The bathroom was a quick stop. Lunch was in the microwave on high for one minute exactly. I set my fork and water on the table, then pulled my lunch out and set my phone to beep in seven minutes. This was a science.
As I shovelled food into my mouth, I thought. There were a few things that all the overrides had in common. Maybe if I looked and acted the part, it would be granted to me sooner.
When my timer went, I ran back to my till. The line was still gone, so I began to clean up the front. I washed the belt with a vigour, scrubbed down the bright yellow side, and polished the computer screen. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Mary looking at me. That meant the lineups were back. I did not make eye contact as I took my sign down and ditched my cloth before she could tell me to.
I did not smile at the first customer that came through my till, or any afterwards. I only spoke when spoken to. When Cindy, at the next till over, asked me a question, I did not answer her with a grin, just short and to the point. And I called her “Hon”.
Confused does not match my perception on how exactly the overrides were able to do this. After nearly ignoring my customers (except when they had questions) for an hour, my shift felt like it had lengthened by years. Three different customers had asked if I was feeling all right, to which all I did was give a curt nod and say I was fine. Another thing— how did they bear their hair falling in their faces from the messy ponytails they all wore? I missed my neat French braid. My pants itched from my untucked shirt. And my neck was cold from undoing the top button like they all did.
“Dear, are you feeling all right?” An old lady was leaning over the till towards me. She looked genuinely concerned.
“I’m fine.” I continued scanning. Precise.
“I’d like to price match that butter, please.”
I felt a twinge of annoyance. Really? After I had scanned it? I hit the void button and scanned it again. Perhaps they would forgive one? “Override to lane three, please.” Clearly spoken, no repeat, no thank you, no lilt. Just like an override.
Mary showed up right aways. “Hon, are you all right?”
“I’m fine, Mar. Just a butter price match.”
“Okay…” she looked me up and down suspiciously. “Are you sure you’re not sick or anything?”
“We have an extra girl in, so you can go home if you need to.”
“Thanks, Mar, but I’m fine.” I felt awful for snapping at her, but I mean, seriously?
The old lady still had not moved. “What’s the matter, Dear?”
I had just shouted at a customer.
The whole front end was quiet.
My lips went into a straight line. I tucked in my shirt. I did the top button. I rolled up my sleeves. I pulled out my ponytail and fixed my hair back into its braid. Then I turned back to the old lady who was watching me in mute astonishment.
“Thank you for asking,” I said, handing her the bags she had paid for while splitting my face into its favourite smile. “I feel much better now.”
The noise slowly resumed around me. The beeping started up and gained speed, and conversations started to trickle together again.
I served my customers. I laughed, I chatted, I spoke German to those that did not know English. Mistakes were there too, but I worked hard and well.
After my shift was over, Mary came to stand in front of my till.
“What’s up, Mar?”
“Karen wants to see you in her office.”
Strange. Maybe I was finally getting promoted! For being myself! I walked quickly to the back and took the steps by two, then knocked on her office door. I forgot if I normally did three or five or seven. She opened while I was still knocking.
“Hi, Karen, you called me?”
“Yes… take a seat.” she motioned me to the stool that Kelly had just emptied. Kelly stood and watched.
I obliged. “Sure. What is it?”
“I wanted to talk to you about your position here.”
“Well, you are a great cashier, and really good with the people.”
“I’ve wanted for some time now to make you an override.”
I tried to look as interested and mature as possible.
“But Kelly and I watched you for a bit this afternoon, and you seemed really out of it. I don’t know if you are ready for that position yet.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“That’s all. Keep practicing!”
She showed me to the door.
“Oh, and try to keep your voids down.”