Nineteen cents is what caused a grown man to lose his mind and start yelling at a cashier. A man who I had the misfortune of being behind in the checkout line.
His total was something-06 and he (thought he had) handed the cashier a quarter. Cashier (took what he thought was) the nickel and after processing the transaction and putting it in the drawer, handed the man his receipt, and told him to have a nice evening, forgiving the penny. Man argued with the cashier for a solid minute, explaining over and over again that he had given him a quarter and he wasn’t leaving without his nineteen cents. Cashier insists it was a nickel, in the nicest way possible.
Who was right? Nobody knows.
Every time the man speaks I can feel my blood pressure rise a few points. He’s becoming more and more agitated and starts swearing at the cashier. My face gets hot. Blood is boiling over. Cashier goes for help because he can’t open the register to get the nineteen cents the man keeps asking for. $0.19. Nineteen cents.
While the cashier is running around frantically trying to find a manager the man continues his tirade, swearing, looking at his watch, and saying “I f***in KNEW it… I knew I should have picked a different line.”
Then it dawns on me. The cashier is a boy, maybe 17 or 18, with brown skin and an accent. This wasn’t about money. Would the man have gone on a tirade if someone like him was behind the counter? Again… Nobody knows.
I muster up all the strength I have for the coming confrontation, dig in my purse, find a quarter, and set it on the counter in front of him. “Sir? Take this, please, and go.”
“What? I don’t want your money. That’s YOUR money. I don’t want it.”
“Just please take it and go. I don’t like seeing people irritated and you’re stressing everyone here out over NINETEEN CENTS.”
By this time the cashier and his manager were back, opened the drawer and gave him his change. He walked away still mumbling to himself while my heart hammered against my ribs.
My quarter was still sitting on the counter.
I hate confrontation. Hate. It. It takes a lot for me to go out of my bubble and confront someone, even if I’m the one they’re wronging.
This was different.
It wasn’t about the money. It was about humiliating the cashier, and I couldn’t stand by and watch that happen.
Hopefully, through this tiny act, the cashier knows that not all white people are crazy. Some of us are even good people capable of good things… On the right day.