Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Checkout (06/09/11)
TITLE: Drama in Aisle Six
By Beth Muehlhausen
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At exactly twelve o’clock noon, a sixty-something man with a comb-over hairdo and smudgy glasses slowly rolled a liter of Coke onto the checkout conveyor belt of Aisle Seven. Dressed in a grease-stained blue mechanic shirt with the name “Roy” stitched above the pocket, he shuffled closer to the checker, Alicia, while clutching a half-eaten sandwich in his right hand. Meanwhile his left arm hugged a large bag of chips protectively to his chest.
“Hello, how are YOU today?” Alicia asked when he finally stood in front of her. There was no answer. Alicia studied his face to see if he would make eye contact, but he didn’t.
Instead, she was greeted by a disgusting mass of half-chewed deli sandwich as he opened his mouth wide to mumble, “Mwuf ardilly pawud.” With each indistinguishable word, little pieces of egg salad flipped onto his scraggly, steel wool beard.
“Excuse me, sir?” Little pieces of mayonnaise-covered egg continued to drip-drip onto the revolving conveyor belt, and were sucked below just as the Coke rumbled to a stop. Alicia was tempted to slap her hand over his mouth, just to contain the mushy confetti.
“May I please have the chips, sir, and the sandwich label - so I can scan them?”
Roy looked at her blankly. Perhaps he couldn’t speak English? Meanwhile he continued to attack the sandwich with another wide-open dinosaur-chomp. The UPC code dangled enticingly on gooey plastic wrap, just beyond Alicia’s reach.
“Sir? I need that …” she pointed to the wrapper “… in order to charge you for the sandwich.”
But Roy didn’t budge.
A skinny, Cruella DeVille-looking woman with three whining children stood next in line. She glared visual daggers straight through Roy, who could care less, and then Alicia. Embarrassed and frustrated, Alicia shrugged back as if to say, “What to do?”
Was Roy deaf? Or dealing with dementia? Did he think he needed to finish the sandwich before he could give Alicia the wrapper? She tried one more time. “Sir? If you just temporarily wrap up the rest of your sandwich I can scan it, and then you can finish it once you leave.”
There was still no response. “May I have your chips, please?”
Roy tightened his hug until Alicia heard the chips ca-crunching. At this she grabbed the intercom phone and spoke distinctly into the mouthpiece: “Assistance from management on Aisle Seven please, assistance from management on Aisle Seven.”
Cruella leaned over the handle of her cart, craned her pelican-neck with its large, red lipstick-coated beak-of-a-mouth, and attacked Alicia with rapid-fire verbal venom. “If YOU don’t decide to handle this, little lady … WELL THEN, I’ll just …” But her threat went unfinished as a dollop of Roy’s egg salad hit the belt with a bird-poop-ish splat. Cruella stopped in mid-sentence and stood like a frozen statue, speechless and bug-eyed.
Within seconds a businesslike man appeared in a crisp white shirt and red tie - Mr. Blake, the store manager. “You called for assistance?”
“Yes, Mr. Blake, this customer seems to be taking his lunch break in my aisle,” Alicia responded. “He has not given me his chips to scan, or the wrapper from his sandwich.” She sheepishly added, “And he keeps dripping egg salad on my belt.”
Mr. Blake was well known for his cool collectedness, even in the most trying of circumstances. “What do YOU think needs to happen?” he asked Alicia, with one eyebrow raised above a questioning eye.
She couldn’t believe it. Mr. Blake had power! Why didn’t he just demand Roy pay for his lunch and move on? But Alicia answered the question carefully. “I think this customer needs to be taken aside and investigated. He could be disabled. Or if he continues to refuse to payment, security could become involved. In any case, he needs to be moved so normal business can be conducted here in Aisle Seven.”
With gentle firmness, Mr. Blake protectively took Roy’s arm and nodded to Alicia with an agreeable, knowing wink. “Come with me, sir.” He grabbed the Coke. “And bring the rest of your sandwich.” They sauntered off in the direction of Mr. Blake’s office, and Alicia turned back to her work.
Meanwhile, one of Cruella’s children held up a box of cookies and screamed, “But I wanted chocolate chip! I TOLD YOU I wanted CHOCOLATE CHIP!”
Alicia greeted Cruella with an extra measure gracious compassion. “And soooo…..how are YOU today?!”
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