Covid Confrontations

“Don’t be mad at me, I just didn’t know. I haven’t been here since March.” the customer raised her voice through a decorative brown and orange striped cloth face-mask.

“Well if you don’t know, you don’t know,” I mumbled.

I did not believe she didn’t know. “Just another white lady who thinks the rules don’t apply to her.” I thought. “I’m ready if she pulls some Karen shit, though. We won’t tolerate that here.” I glanced over my shoulder to make sure that my co-workers were around to back me up if necessary. 

As I scanned the groceries and tossed them back into the cart, I continued to complain to myself, “She thought I was going to take the groceries out of her bag. Ha! Why didn’t she just use a cart like everyone else? I should have told her to go get the cart for herself. She better not make a scene.” I sucked my teeth and probably rolled my eyes a little.

“What’s wrong now?” She asked, unexpectedly.

“The other cashiers are not here now, we aren’t busy now, that’s why they left. But they were here a few minutes ago.” I rambled on a bit, not telling her what I really felt.

I did not tell her that I was terrified that she would start throwing shit and calling me names and blaming me for all the problems with the world. I did not tell her that she was standing too damn close to me when she was belligerently trying to bag the groceries after I told her that she could not do that here.

“I still don’t understand exactly,” she interrupted my silent reel. “Where am I supposed to bag the groceries?”

“In the parking garage,” I replied incredulously. Didn’t she see that on her way in?

“Oh, how strange,” she replied. After a moment, she simply said, “Ok.”

I felt relieved, she was not going to make a scene. Soon she would leave and I could just forget about the whole incident.

“You accept SNAP here, right?” She asked.

“What?” I asked. I thought I heard correctly, but the masks muffle the words sometimes.

She showed me the food stamp card and asked again.

“Yes,” I replied, a bit stunned. I realized that my story about her was at least partially shattered. She wasn’t just trying to get special treatment. She did not know that the store policies had changed. I wondered whether this was the first time she’d been able to buy groceries since March.

I checked over my shoulder to make sure there were other cashiers available, but this time for a different reason, “Follow me,” I said sympathetically, “I’ll show you where you can bag your groceries.”