For someone who doesn’t make a living going on the road anymore, I sure have traveled a lot in the last 18 months. And with airlines cutting back, plane changes have become as common as bus stops. I’ve spent more time in airports lately waiting for connecting flights than I have at the gym. A fact I’m reminded of every time I get dressed in the morning. (Mirrored sliding closet doors? Seriously? Whose dumb idea was that?)
On one of my recent plane changes I had a layover in the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport and I stopped in for a latte at a coffee joint that shall remain nameless. However, last I checked they’d over-expanded so widely they had a shop on every planet between here and Uranus. And to pay for your overpriced universal coffee you had to use an intergalactic currency known as “star bucks.”
Anywho, I bought a latte, which came to $4.84. I paid with a $5 bill and then waited for my change, but it didn’t come. Instead the young woman helping me shut the cash drawer, craned her neck to look around me like I was blocking her view of The Pope shooting craps and yelled, “NEXT!”
I was a bit dumbfounded, because even though 16 cents doesn’t exactly make or break me, I do think it’s a little bold for any cashier to assume that a customer doesn’t want her change. I could see if I had walked away without saying anything, or muttered, “Keep the change,” but none of that happened.
You Know You’re Getting Old When…
…instead of moving out of the way, I held my ground, glaring at the cashier with the same look I give my kids when I know that they know that I know that they’re up to no good, but won’t admit it. Then as is if she suddenly remembered she left her baby on a barstool at Hooters, she looked at me apologetically…and quickly handed me a receipt. Which, by the way, had the change listed on it.
“Um, what about my change?”
“Oh. You want that?” She didn’t even try to pretend like she forgot she owed me money.
“Well, yeah. I mean, it is mine, right?”
She exhaled an annoyed sigh before offering, “I can’t open the cash register until I help the next customer. So you’ll have to step aside and wait.”
“Fine,” I retorted back equally irritated. I scooted over and let the guy behind me place his order, which had so many instructions it sounded like he was closing escrow (“Decaf with soy milk. Sweet & Lo, NOT sugar. A gluten-free cinnamon roll, please, but scrape off that sugary topping and replace it with just a hint of nutmeg…”) Geez, why not ask for a root beer float with diet root beer while you’re at it. I wondered why he even bothered to make a pit stop at a place where the food rolls off an assembly line like it was a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company.
In the mean time a barista yelled out my coffee order, so like Pavlov’s Dog, I trotted over to stand in THAT line to get my delicious hot beverage. I wasn’t gone more than two minutes when I came back to retrieve my 16 cents and noticed the young woman behind the cash register was now a young man.
“Excuse me,” I asked, “Where’s the gal who was just here?”
“Tanya? She went home. Her shift’s over.”
“But she owes me money!”
“Really, how much?”
A Sea Change to See Change
That’s when it got a little weird. I mean, who in their right mind risks missing their connecting flight over 16 cents? Yes, it was the principle that mattered, but all this kid would see is some crazy woman who cut in line to scam 16 cents out of the till on his watch. Not exactly my finest hour.
“Uh…never mind.” I skulked away pissed. After all, what if hundreds of people involuntarily left 16 cents behind? That could add up. What is this world coming to when you can’t even expect to get the change you have coming? You can bet if my order came to $4.16 and I said, “I’m sorry, but all I have is $4.00, feel free to make up the difference yourself,” that I wouldn’t be getting my coffee any time soon.
And that’s when I looked down and saw a $10 bill lying on the floor, right there in the middle of the busy concourse. Nobody noticed it me but me. I picked it up. I should’ve felt vindicated, but instead I felt a little downhearted. I lost 16 cents, but someone else lost ten bucks. It was like the Universe was saying, “OMG, enough already about your stupid 16 cents! Here’s ten dollars to cover the coffee and then some. Now shut the hell up!”
As I walked down the concourse still trying to figure out why I wasn’t doing cheetah flips over finding ten dollars, I passed a young mother with two grouchy toddlers standing at the counter of a pizza place. She had a small pile of cash in front of her, but still dug around in her purse obviously short the total. Her kids were tired and whining, her face was full of fatigue and anxiety, and there was a line of weary travelers impatiently waiting behind her. Not an optimal situation for anyone.
I turned around, backtracked to the young mom, and placed my newfound $10 bill on the counter next to her pile of wrinkled cash. She looked at me with a Good-lord-now-what? expression that bordered on anger, as if she thought I was trying to cut in line.
I simply smiled at her and said, “Keep the change.”
Then I quickly left her to manage her brood, while I headed back down the concourse to catch my flight my home…16 cents poorer, but ten dollars richer.
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Stacy Dymalski is an award winning keynote speaker and stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage. For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in bookstores and on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.