Yesterday I decided to do my grocery shopping in the morning so I’d have the remainder of the day to fulfill other commitments. I threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and headed over to Whole Foods Market in Pasadena. It’s about a twenty minute drive west of my house. I usually shop in the afternoon because that’s when the hot food bar is stocked with dinner items. Trust me, when an opportunity arises to get a night off from cooking, I jump at it. Anyway, there was a huge upside to getting out early—the store was relatively empty. In the afternoons, it’s like the 405 freeway, with people bumping into each other with their shopping carts and battles over ripe fruit raging in the produce section.
I worked my way down my list and the aisles, filling my cart with my family’s favorite foods. In less than an hour, my cart was full. While I approached the check stand, I gave the goodies staring at me from my basket the once over—organic apples, a half a pound of salmon, cheese popcorn, my to-die-for trail mix, my hubby’s Quinoa and almond milk, an assortment of organic veggies, and a number of other eclectic and scrumptious edibles.
I glanced at my cell phone and smiled when I saw I was ahead of schedule and that there were only two people in front of me. The casher was waiting on a bespectacled man that appeared to be in his sixties. I studied the man from head to toe. My sister calls me “The starer” because I have a habit of scrutinizing people, taking in every detail. Maybe it’s something all writers do. People fascinate me and I do tend to watch them and create stories in my head about who they are and what their lives are like outside of the present moment.
While inspecting the man I noticed a grimace on his face. Then he thrust what looked like a container of mushrooms into the cashier’s hand. “These aren’t fresh. They’re spoiled and I want my money,” back, he said with a snarl. All I could think about was that my smooth morning had hit a bump and now I was going to be delayed. Should I wait in this line or move to another? The cashier took told the man that he would need to go to customer service. “I’ve done that already!” She then looked over her shoulder and exchanged whispers with the cashier behind her. The irate customer, looking as if he were ready to snap, sighed loudly. “Okay,” the cashier conceded, picking up a fresh container of mushrooms the man had set in front of her. “But the difference is 40 cents.” “40 Cents? You’re gonna charge me 40 cents for selling me an expired product and on top of it, I had to wait thirty minutes to do the exchange.” “I didn’t sell you this product,” the clerk retorted.” “Well, the store did!” the man shouted. The clerk shook her head, punched in some numbers on her register, and then reiterated that the difference between the old and new mushrooms was 40 cents. The man snatched the new container, glared at her, and stormed out of the store, leaving her standing there with her mouth agape. “Did you see that?” she asked me and the other customers. “He left without paying!” I stood there waiting for Don Quinones of the ABC show “What Would You Do?” and his camera crew to come out of the shadows, because it had to be a joke. Talk about making a mountain out of a mushroom. Of course the man was wrong for not paying what he owed, but 40 cents would fall in the category of chump change.
The manager chalked it up as a lost and the writer in me saw the man pulling away from the store, jabbing his fist in the air, yelling, “I showed them.” Then he contemplates what happened and begins to feel invincible. Forty cents, why not forty dollars or four-hundred dollars? Forget that. I might be able to get away with four-thousand dollars. Four-thousand? Why not forty-thousand. Hell, four-million,” he says, pulling into the parking lot of a nearby bank. He parks, downs a few of the fresh mushrooms, pulls a note pad and pen out of his glove compartment and writes a note to the teller.
(To be continued).
P.S. For those of you who are curious about the latest and greatest regarding “Married in the Nick of Nine,” it’s currently on submission.