#349: Bad Checker


I walked through the express checkout,
up to 12 items, with a jug of milk,
a carton of orange juice,
some lunch meat,
and some chicken thighs for the grill.
Four items.
The checker, he was a bad checker.
He didn’t greet me,
he didn’t ask me how I was,
he didn’t smile,
he didn’t ask me paper or plastic.
But he did ask me, did I want the milk in a bag,
and I said, no,
and he went ahead and
put the milk in a bag.
I wanted to say,
did you just ask me if I would like
the milk in a bag? If he answered, yes,
I would have said, dude.
I bought four things.
You asked me one question.
And you weren’t listening, to yourself or to me,
because either you didn’t hear my response
or you forgot you asked the question,
and you finished the transaction
in total auto-pilot.
You suck at your job, I wanted to say.
But I didn’t say anything.
I try not to judge.
Who knows what he’s suffering?
I have to try really hard not to judge.

It’s like the student who freaks out
about the spider in the classroom
during a reading about surviving
a Nazi concentration camp.
She’s oblivious to what’s inside and out
and has no perspective whatsoever.
Maybe she’s just a stupid person.
Maybe not. Maybe she’ll end up
one day becoming a bad checker,
asking me if I’d like a bag,
and giving me one whether
I want it or not, and I will try
very hard not to judge, and fail.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

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