THE QUARTER

So, here I am at Adams Fairacre Farms walking back to my car pushing my cart. A man walks toward me. Our eyes meet. We both know what’s coming next: the dreaded shopping cart hand-off, something we’ve all dealt with. The smoothness of this transition depends entirely on the personalities involved. Sometimes it’s seamless. Other times, not so much. “Sir, do you need a cart,” I asked?” ”Yes, I do,” was his answer. He wanted to know if I needed a quarter. I paused and said ‘yes.’ Then I realized what a stupid thing to say. I mean, yes, I put a quarter in the cart but…but I didn’t want this guy thinking that I actually NEEDED a quarter. What I should have said was, ‘No…don’t worry about it…just take it,”  but  I didn’t and it was too late. These situations require quick thinking as I’m sure we’re all aware. If you have to wait for more than 3 seconds for the quarter hand-off, you are going to come off looking like a cheap little humanoid and there’s nothing you can do about it. I was way past the allotted time here. I was screwed and I knew it. The gentleman, haunched over and very elderly, shuffled with the aid of a cane. If I may be honest, he looked like he might have been on a first-name basis with some members of the Hoover administration. He appeared to be mildly perturbed as he was busily rifling through his pockets for a quarter and, of course, the longer this tedium went on, the more inadequate I felt. I wanted desperately to say, “Just give me a Werther’s Original and we’ll call it even.” Despite the 20-degree temperature, I  could feel little beads of sweat building up on my forehead.  Oh, and adding insult to injury, I just happen to be wearing a ratty sweatshirt that read, “Broke’ on it. Wonderful choice of clothing, Bob!  My self-esteem may never fully recover from this. By now, I’m feeling like that poor soul we see standing at the traffic light holding a ratty cardboard sign that reads, “Down on my luck. Could really use a 6 pac.” For the love of God, when is this going to end?

After what seemed like an eternity, he sighed and told me that he didn’t have a quarter and asked if 2 dimes and a nickel would work? Oh my God, could this possibly get any more humiliating? How in the world could I have just stood out in these frigid temps for what seemed like an eternity waiting for some sweet old man who reeks of mothballs to give me 25 cents?  How sad had my life become?  With the monetary transaction now complete, there was still one more blow to my libido to be taken when with his hand shaking, he handed me a wadded-up tissue and said that maybe I wanted to wipe the perspiration from my forehead.

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