Sunday, April 1, 2012

Twelve cents

Walmart is one of my favorites place to go (right behind Costco and Target) -- and not just for the bargains. It’s a prime location for people watching.

I went to the local Walmart with my parents on Sunday for our compulsory trip during their Charlottesville visit. I first headed to hitherto unchartered territory for me: sporting goods -- to make a copy of my Charlottesville apartment key, of course.

As soon as I handed over my key to the sales associate, I fumbled in my wristlet to take inventory of the cash I had on hand for check-out. This was a convenient opportunity to relieve my wallet of the weighty, jangling coins, I thought. Apart from the dollar bills, I found a quarter, a dime and two pennies.

When I’d finished doing so, I found that the key clerk was still at work with the machine, and so replaced the coins in my wallet. Beside her were a male sales associate and two young, impoverished boys (brothers, I suppose). The younger brother, about 13 years old, eagerly counted dimes and nickels from his coin heap -- likely unearthed from painstaking scourging -- and slid dollar piles to the sales clerk. The uninterested older brother, meanwhile, inspected merchandise nearby and probably had enough sense at his age to feel some tinge of mortification in the transaction. The coins totaled about three dollars -- 12 cents short of what the sales clerk needed.

Dejected, the younger boy looked to his older, preoccupied brother and told him he’d need to come up with another 12 cents somehow. “How?” I wondered, “By searching the store for a godforsaken dime and two pennies?” The older brother stopped, came by the younger fellow, took a look at the inadequate coin heap and walked off, presumably to begin the demeaning 12-cent search.

I reached into my wallet to retrieve the dime and two pennies. “I have twelve cents,” I said, meekly placing the three coins alongside the heap and returning to my original spot on the opposite corner of the counter. I didn’t think to look at the boy's reaction or to observe what he and his brother were paying for.

The key clerk looked at me and said, “That was very nice what you just did.” I shrugged. I really shouldn’t lament the weight of coins in my purse.

1 comment: