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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Why I should probably be back in therapy.

I have a complicated relationship with supermarket cashiers. They’re serving me, and yet at the same time they have all the power—tallying my purchases, weighing and considering each item, silently judging me. I’m always a little mortified (I can hear them thinking, she pays that much extra for organic? chump) and yet also grateful because hey, they're letting me take this food home! I mean, I have to pay for it, but still. Mostly, though, I really want them to be nice to me. I’m not asking for much. A smile here, a “have a nice day” there. Sometimes the exchange with the cashier is the only adult interaction I’ll have all day. I want a little validation that I exist. Is that too much to ask?

At any rate, there’s a new cashier at the Met Food across the street, and this woman is One Cranky-Ass Bitch. She’s a middle-aged woman with badly dyed red hair and a thick Russian accent. She scowls at every item that rolls towards her, and then regards me with an icy stare and spits, “Give me $35.17,” like she’s mugging me. And oh, when I tell her I’m going to use my debit card! The sighing and the rolling of the eyes! “Cash back?” she growls, and then looks at me like god help you if you say yes. If she could get away with balling up the receipt and hucking it at my face, she would. She is not a nice person.

So of course I’ve been trying to make her my friend. I head straight for her cash register and I put each item down right where she can pick it up—no making that conveyor belt roll, my friend! That’s too much work for you! Then when she accosts me with the total I always beam at her and say, “Okay!” and I count out my money—exact change for you, neighbor! You’ve had a hard day! And then she shoves my receipt at me and my bag and I tell her to have a nice day and she hates me more than ever.

I went in on Saturday to buy a bag of potting soil. I had a hard time negotiating the bag, as it was big and heavy and I am small and puny. I plopped it down at her register and said, “Whoa!” because I’m a dork. She glanced at me to sneer, but then something changed in her expression—and she smiled at me. She. Smiled. At me.

Finally, I thought. I’ve broken through. She could only resist my charms for so long.

Of course I smiled like a crazy person back at her, and I handed her my money and she gave me my change and I shrieked “Thank you! Nice day, isn’t it! Hope you get outside! Bye! See you later!” at her. She looked right at me and she smiled again. I was in heaven.

When I walked in the door I was about to tell my husband about my breakthrough when he said, “Did you know that you’ve got something on your face? You’ve got a big black smudge under your nose.”

So. It wasn’t my charms, but my dirt mustache. Cranky-Ass Bitch was laughing at me. She was thinking, “The American whore looks like Hitler. And my heart is glad.”

I'm sort of considering doing it again, just to amuse her.

Reader Comments (61)

I thought I'd delurk purely because I was a supermarket cashier, and technically still am when home from university; but I'm trying to repress that memory. I don't think I paid attention to any customers other than my regulars, I was too busy gazing at cute customers across the store, trying to work out when I had time to write an essay or composing poetry on the back of discarded receipts. But I was also taught by my mother that smiling is free.
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterhannah
The Met Food on Vanderbilt? Jesus Christ, girl, we're like next door neighbors. I agree with Kara-- there's a certain inherent sadism in those Russian ladies. (Which is why they control the waxing monopoly in NYC, I think.) Oh, and as a grad student in exam week(s), sometimes my only daily human interaction is with clerks, too. I suggest that you befriend the adorable Korean brothers at Caree Cleaners on the corner; they're good that way.
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Weeze
I live across the street from my local grocery store, too, and am in there several times a week picking up odds and ends. Lately, I've noticed that the "cashier reminder sheet" that hangs next to the cash has had, in addition to the usuals re: special prices, tips, etc, "greet smile thank" in flashy print near the top of the page. It's impossible to miss; and yet, I haven't had a greeting, smile or thank you from the surly trolls yet.

PS: I too have made an ass of myself on Ash Wednesday. I grew up in a predominantly baptist/protestant area and went to a catholic university. It was bound to happen. Like wix, the woman I was trying to save from embarassment was quite snippy about it.
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterj
pennies - yes

coupons - oh yes - and expired to boot.

April 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMarivic
awww man.... you should draw a mustache on your face with an eyeliner and go in acting as in nothing is wrong....
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermojavi
awww man.... you should draw a mustache on yourface with an eyeliner and go in acting as in nothing is wrong....
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermojavi
classic ... i would advocate handing her something back at the end of her tallying and suggesting that you can't afford that, then have her deduct the cost and pay her in pennies ...

i hope you get paid to write somehow ... you're great at it
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterlate edition
LOL. Very.Funny. ;)
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBen
I take this as further evidence that God appears to enjoy smearing things on people's faces and then watching what happens when they get in line at the supermarket. The same thing happened to this unfortunate man: www.iamgettingfat.blogspot.comwhat an eery coincidence, no?

April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterginnderella
people are crap. never mind being nice to people who scowl. pttthhhhht to them.
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterhonestyrain
Have fun with it; try several permutations of facial hair: "I need more butter... time to paste on those mutton chops."
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLOD
Sort of appropo, but not really - I worked as a ticket sales cashier at a movie theater. When things were slow and the manager wasn't around,I'd turn off the power to the ticket dispensing machine. When a customer came up to buy tickets, I'd take their money and then push the button that was to dispense the ticket, which of course it wouldn't because I'd turned it off. I'd say to the customer "I'm really sorry but this cranky old ticket machine gets stuck sometimes - would you mind giving the front of the ticket booth a good kick?" If they went for it, the moment they'd kick the booth, I'd flip the switch back on and out would pop the tickets. I'd usually get at least pretty good grin from the customer. I tried to make it a little interesting and interactive for my customers.

But I couldn't explain to my manager why there were all those scuff marks on the front of the booth.
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commenternot-that-Andrea
You are a much nicer person than I. I would do everything I could to make her life worse.
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCecily
I can't help but to comment - this post gave me the greatest laugh. Thanks!

(yup, nothing of actual substance to add)
April 19, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermahew
The mean cashier can be overwhelmingly friendly on Russian standards.
April 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLiisa
I think she just likes potting soil. Because I went in there last night to buy a bag, went right to her, and she smiled at me. And I didn't have anything on my face but my real mustache, which if it were smeared with potting soil, would just look like I'd been combing in Just For MenTM Mustache, Beard, & Sideburns Formula. Which, as far as I know, I hadn't.

She muttered something in Russian, too, which might have meant "your wife's tender soul will be perfect for mealtime, snacktime, anytime...!" But this I can't verify.
April 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterScott
CRAXY....waht a geart wrod.
April 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterUma Andersson
I think everyone has a bit of "mean Russian cashier with bad hair" in them.
April 20, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterstewbie2
I laughed through the post & all the comments, then Uma does her CRAXY , geart wrod bit... The windows are open, so if anyone is walking past I'm sounding craxy. I insist that the cashier talk to me. When they don't, I'll say, "Fine, thanks. How are you?" A mumbled greeting/apology always pops right out of their mouths after that.
April 20, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermary
I've been a cashier. I'm like you too though--got to have that person's friendship at all costs! I tried forever to get some people to smile. Then there are those bitches who think you are wallpaper and enjoy showing their friends at the checkout (still wearing sunglasses) how they can make you serve them. Grr. I put their bread on the bottom. And pretended I scanned their coupons, just for giggles. That wasn't right, but it sure felt good. Ha. Now I am in a job worlds better than that--phone bank customer service. God, am I hopeless.
April 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
I WAS a cashier a long time ago. A woman said (who knows why?) that I didn't have to be such a bitch. I said she didn't have to be "such a one either." My young, timid way of calling her a bitch back. I probably went to the storeroom & cried after that...cuz I was so tough.
April 20, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermary
Amy-lol! I love the not scanning coupons bit (even though it really is not right).I worked at a frozen yogurt place back in the days. I'd pass by people in the line who were talking on their cell phones. After all, just because I'm serving them doesn't give them a right to treat me like dirt. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

April 20, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSonja
I have never wondered what a cashier is thinking. Perhaps hanging out with them in the breakroom when I was a sacker removed all the mystery. Mostly they are thinking "My feet hurt. When do I get to go home?"

And Russians--who was it that said "no one can out-suffer the Russians"? But yes. They do not respond to American friendliness, so much. Even the young pretty ones have well-developed icy glares.

Why do you want to win her over? This is an urge I have never understood. Wanting to punch or avoid mean people I understand. Wanting them to like me, no.
April 21, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee
The meaner she is to you, the more you'll want her to like you. And God forbid she's nice to someone else, that'll just send you over the edge.

Forget paying in small change - don't try to piss her off, try to make yourself interesting to her.

Go to the store and stock up on condoms, personal lubricant, oil, plastic wrap (preferably colored),various and sundry phallic-shaped veggies and some kitchen twine. Check out at her register. Don't say a word - nothing, not even hi. Act like this is completely normal. Do the same thing the following week.

I guarantee she'll start talking to you.
April 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMegan
I hate going to ANY store. Just send the crap to me. The pharmacy is the worst. Let's wait in a long line at Shopko to get pills that I don't want to take! Yes, let's!
April 21, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTeken

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