It’s not about the lettuce.
It started out like any other day. I worked in a small National Tea Grocery store. It was Friday and the store was pretty full. The time would go pretty fast and I was okay with that.
Once in a while there would be a “price check,” otherwise it was business as usual.
Or so I thought.
I remember ringing up her head of lettuce.
My fingers hit the keys, 49 cents. The days before scanners.
“That was 39 cents.” she snapped.
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“You charged me 49 cents for the lettuce. It’s on sale for 39 cents.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” I quickly said. I’ll take the 10 cents off right now.
“You’re sorry? YOU’RE SORRY? This isn’t the first time you’ve overcharged me. Every time I come in your line you overcharge me.”
By then I could feel my face getting warm. My apology had fallen on deaf ears. And not only that, now my mistake was being labeled deliberate. Something I did on a regular basis.
But she wasn’t done yet. Not yet.
“Maam, if I always overcharge you,” I said quietly, “why do you come in my line?”
Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t have to ask. But there was a part of me that wanted to defend myself. I didn’t overcharge her or anyone else. I didn’t want mud on my reputation.
“Why do I come in your line? Why do I come in YOUR LINE? Do you think I come in your line because I LIKE you?”
Clearly, that had not crossed my mind.
“I come in YOUR line because it’s the closest one to the door! Listen, why don’t you go back to Greece, or Italy, or WHEREVER you’re from.”
And there it was. She did hate me. It had nothing to do with lettuce. It was a personal preference. I was the wrong person.
My face reddened and I felt like like she had stomped all over me.
“Richard!” I yelled, as my voice crackled.
I didn’t have to recount the situation to the assistant manager. He had heard it. In fact, everyone in the store had heard. But to be certain she once again repeated it verbatem as her anger seethed through her teeth.
Richard listened as good managers do, and finally answered.
“Maam, she’s already apologized to you. She refunded the ten cents. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t give you the right to talk to one of my girls that way.
He stood up for me. She tried taking my dignity and he gave it back.
I never recall seeing her again. But sometimes, when I see a head of lettuce…