Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Christmastime Trial of Register 8

“You don’t know what a Weeble is?” The older cashier at register 9 asks her young colleague at register 8.

“Nope,” the young lady replies.

“Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!” The lady customer standing in front of me sings.

Registers 9 and 7 laugh in surprised pleasure, while Register 8 just looks bewildered, as if wondering whether or not she should call Security.

Christmas is coming; I am in line at a local retailer, waiting to purchase a few childish presents for my kids.

“What about Duck Tales?” Register 7 asks.

“Duck Tales, A-Woo-Ooo!” The strange lady chimes.

“Nope,” Register 8 replies with a shake of her head.

“Barney?” This from Register 7.

“Oh, I love Barney! Barney was my jam!” The crazy lady pipes with glee.

I shudder with posttraumatic stress. Hello, my name is Matthew, and I am a Barney survivor…

“Wasn’t Barney that touchy-feely purple pedophile dinosaur?” The girl asks, eliciting a contempt-laden stare from Register 7.

After a pause, the trial of Register 8 continues.

“Mrs. Beasley?”

“Stretch Armstrong?”

The young cashier looks about to cry, but her two co-workers won’t quit.

“Care Bears?”

“What about Monchichis?”

Damn you Register 9, now I’m going to be singing “Monchichi, Monchichi, Oh so soft and cuddly!” for the rest of the week…

“She’s never even seen A Christmas Story,” Register 9 declares with condemnation in her voice, a hanging judge passing sentence.

Don’t judges in England put a lace doily on top of their head when they sentence someone to death?

“What?” The lady customer is mortified. “You haven’t seen A Christmas Story?” She stands with her arms out at an angle, waddles a couple of steps forward and cries, “I can’t move my arms!”

Lace doily to register 9, lace doily to register 9 please…

“I didn’t have a lot of toys, and we didn’t watch television. I read a lot of books,” explains the cashier, hoping for exoneration, or at the very least a lighter sentence.

Oh dear…you’ve gone and poured fuel on your own death pyre…

“Oh, so you were one of those kids, too smart to go outside and have fun, too nerdy to have friends? Must’ve been a great childhood,” Register 9 scoffs.

“I read books when I was young, but I also went outside to play and watch TV like normal kids,” the lady customer says, her voice no longer happy with the singsong of childhood memories.

Why don’t they ask her about something from this century? I want to jump onto the counter, let loose with a Thundercats battle cry, and come to the poor girl’s defense.

But I don’t.

Register 7 has become very occupied with customers, and appears too busy and perhaps a bit too embarrassed to offer a defense.

After paying with a swipe and a jab, the lady customer storms off to towards the exit. As I watch her huff her way out of the store, I hope that someone parked too close to her driver’s side door.

The young cashier begins to scan my purchases, her head hanging low to avoid eye contact with me. I imagine her alone and crying in the break room later that evening.

“I read a lot as a kid myself,” I say, injecting a tone of support into my voice.

She looks up, and I am relieved to see her half-smile at me. After a moment she adds, “We didn’t have a lot of money, so my parents took us to the library for free fun.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” I assure her.

“I think I would rather read than do anything else,” she tells me.

“It’s been a while, but there was a time I felt pretty much the same way,” I admit.

“You should try to get that feeling back.”

“Maybe I’ll make that my one and only New Year’s resolution,” I think out loud while swiping my debit card.

“That’s a great idea,” she says.

I pick up my gifts, a bag of Hot Wheels cars and a hula-hoop.

“Merry Christmas!” The young lady say with a confident smile.

I smile back at her. “Merry Christmas to you!”

The smile stays with me all the way out the parking lot, where it turns to a frown as I approach my car. After a moment of thought, the frown turns into a chuckle.

Someone has parked his or her oversize SUV a little too close to my driver’s side door.

Merry Christmas!