No Change, Then

When I go to restaurants, I like to leave cash tips. That carries a few implications for me, one of which is that I like to have small bills in my wallet so I can dial in the right tip for the right meal without taking up too much time at the restaurant. I was about to go eat somewhere when I remembered all I had was a $20 bill. I needed some ones and fives for this place, so I pulled into a convenience store to break that $20.

I walked in, found where they sold some gum, picked up a pack that looked appealing, and proceeded to the counter.

The young lady at the cash register looked like she had a real sad life story, even at this early age, but I didn’t want to pry. I just said, “Nice weather today, ain’t it?” and put the gum on the counter.

She ran it over her scanner and after her register beeped, she said, “That’ll be a dollar thirty-six.”

I produced my $20 and her expression went from bored coping to a hateful sneer. “Don’t you got anything smaller than that?”

“That’s the only bill I got.”

“Well, don’t you got a credit card or somethin’?”

“I’d like to pay in cash, if you don’t mind.”

“Well, I *do* mind.” She looked at me with some kind of deep malevolence in her eyes.

Pretty strong emotions over a $20, I figured. I had to ask why it made such a big deal to her. “Why?”

“I don’t like makin’ change.”

“The register tells you the amount, don’t it?”

“All the same, I don’t like it. I ain’t makin’ no change.”

“What do you do with other people that pay in cash?”

“Well, it ain’t no problem if they’s close to the right amount. I don’t mind that none. *You*, though… you ain’t got even close to what this costs. Besides, you’re just buyin’ it to make me give you change, and that’s against store policy. We don’t break no large bills.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I *do* want this here gum. I’m not just buyin’ it, as you say.”

“If you want it so bad, then pay with a credit card.”

“I want to pay cash, please.”

“Then take it for free. I don’t care.”

“But I want the change, as well!”

“Then buy some more stuff. Get it up over $10 and then I’ll break your $20.”

“I’m not doing that! I need more than ten bucks in change.”

“Well, I ain’t no ATM.”

“I’d like to speak to the manager on duty, please.”

She smiled, which I took immediately as an ill omen. “We got the owner here, if you’d like.”

“OK, please have him up here.”

“Sure thing.” She turned to yell at the back room. “Honey! We got us an idjit here!”

Honey? Well, honey turned out to be a big ol’ feller, about twice the age of the cashier, and in no kinda mood. “What seems to be the problem, sir?”

“I’d like to buy this pack of gum and she won’t accept my $20 for it. I’d like the change, all the same.”

“If she don’t wanna have to do no math, that’s her business. Did she offer it to you for free?”

“Yes, but-”

“But nothing. You take it and get on outta here. We don’t need your business, if you ain’t civil enough to use the right bill for the purchase.”

“I don’t mean to cause no trouble.”

“Don’t wanna cause no trouble? You asked for a manager, didn’t you? That’s always what people do when they want to cause trouble. And you’re planning trouble for my sweetheart here? I ain’t got no allegiance to that plan. You best get on outta here while I’m yet in control of my temper.”

“Well, I’m not taking the gum, then.”

“What, it’s not good enough for you?”

I turned and walked out of there. I had gotten half-way to my car when I felt something small strike me in the back. I turned to see what it was. Honey stood in the doorway of his store. “It’s your gum, yuh moron yuh!”

I almost refused to pick it up, but then a part of me envisioned a future in which Honey charged out to grab up that gum and get it into my possession, even if it meant totalling my vehicle in order to do so. I picked it up without any further comment and walked on to my car.

Honey went back inside and I resolved never to get gas or anything there ever again.

I next decided that I had to go eat somewhere where the bill would come out to $16.67, exactly, so that $20 would cover the cost of the meal and provide a 20% gratuity and then hope and pray that the waitress wouldn’t be someone that was allergic to getting change in a tip.

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