The Correct Change

New math isn’t always what it seems at first glance

I’d say that this cashier wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree, but that’s being generous. Perhaps she’s merely a product of the public school system so it might not be her fault. I don’t know. Addition and subtraction was not her strong suit.

Cracking gum and curling her straight strawberry blonde hair with her index finger were bona fide talents she had, but to my knowledge, those weren’t electives in school.

As a rule, I’m very lenient when it comes to retail workers. Interfacing with customers all day every day can be tedious and taxing. By the same token, interfacing with non-thinking retail workers is also taxing.

Debra must have been 22 or 23. She seemed happy enough as she rang up customer after customer. Even though I could tell she was tired, she seemed genuinely happy. Cute. Not exactly a girl-next-door type with both forearms tattooed, but she probably didn’t have a hard time getting a date.

My three-quarter length pants came to $21.90 total. No tax in this State.

I gave her a twenty and two ones. Simple enough.

She asked, “Do you have a dime?”

“Um, why?” I asked.

“Because it would help and I won’t have to give you so much change.”

“Sorry. What? I don’t understand. I gave you 22 dollars, and the total was 21.90, correct?”

“Well, yeah.” I think this was the comment that set me off. Just substitute the word, “Duh” for yeah and that’s the tone she used. I was calm until then.

“Then why should I give you another dime? If anything you owe me a dime.”

Debra rolled her eyes. “No, Ma’am, that is not correct.” She rubbed her brow. “The way I figure it, if you gave me another dime, I would then be able to give you the proper change.”

“And what would the proper change be after I gave you a dime?” I said.

“She’s right, you know,” the boy behind me said. Another college-aged kid.


“If you gave her a dime and a nickel, she’d be able to give you a quarter back. See how that works?”

I turned forward to Miss Gum Cracker. She raised her eyebrows as if in agreement with Boy Wonder behind me.

“Just give her…wait a sec.” He reached into his front jean pocket and pulled out 15 cents. “Here you go, uh, Debra. I don’t know why Mrs. Whoever here is being so uncooperative.”

Debra shrugged her shoulders, and pulled a quarter from the drawer. She placed it deliberately into the palm of my hand, bagged my pants, and said, “Have a pleasant day, Ma’am.”

I slowly stepped away from the checkout aisle, and then turned to Boy Wonder.

He smiled and gave a slight wink.

Then I got it. They would have a laugh at my expense when I walked out the door, and he might just get a phone number out of the deal.

Just like his father might’ve done. And when Boy Wonder gets home, I’ll ask him.


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