At a recent Washington Nationals baseball game, I bellied up to a concession stand named Senators Sausage (possibly “Senators Pork” was considered and rejected). I ordered a sausage and a beer and a bottle of water, for which I was prepared to uncomplainingly fork over whatever they asked, say, $700, because I had become afflicted, as we all are, with Stadium Extortion Numbness Syndrome.
Just as I was about to pay — my food and drinks were on a tray in front of me — an official-looking woman stepped up to the cashier and handed her an envelope. The cashier reached into her till, produced what I believe was a single hundred-dollar bill, put it in the envelope, wrote the amount on the envelope, sealed it, signed it and gave it back to the other woman.
As longtime readers of this column might suspect, this displeased me. I have impatience issues. I hate to be delayed, even if I am running early and the delay will make me only slightly less early and even if the thing I will be less early for is, say, a root canal. I am the guy who is completely convinced that cashiers wait for me to arrive at their register before they break open and distribute their new rolls of coins, because they seem to do it every single time I get there.
So, yes, I have an impatience problem. I am not proud of it. But I have been working on it. I am pleased to report that I took this mildly annoying $100-bill delay calmly and maturely.
Then the official-looking woman presented another envelope to the cashier, who proceeded to withdraw all the twenties from the till — there was a stack of them thicker than a triple decker turkey club sandwich, the kind that needs those plastic frilly toothpicks to hold it together — and began to count them out, one at a time.
I felt the familiar tension start to build. But I stayed on top of it. With a big, sincere smile, I suggested to the cashier ever so politely that perhaps she might suspend this bookkeeping operation long enough to let me pay for my food and be on my way.
The cashier looked at me, then back at the stack in her hands and blinked. Evidently, I’d made her lose count. She sighed and started again.
Eventually, the operation concluded. She signed, sealed and delivered the envelope to the official lady. This had taken the better part of two minutes. Helpfully, I extended my credit card. The cashier looked at it, looked at my purchase, looked at the other lady, and reached for the stack of tens, which was as thick as a Roget’s Thesaurus, not the dumbed-down dictionary kind, but the better, larger one from the 1970s with the index that is half the size of the book.
I am not entirely proud of what happened next, though I am not entirely ashamed of it, either. I wheeled around and left, abandoning my now tepid sausage and rapidly flattening beer right where they were.
I can’t be sure if this was the right thing to do, though I know it made me feel better. Sure, I ended the night a little hungry, but the following morning I planned to get up early and visit a market across the street where I could buy a baguette, and some wonderful fresh brie from the cheese lady.
The cheese lady’s stall is among the most popular in the market, and there is often a bit of a line, even in the morning. One reason for this is that the cheese lady is one of the nicest people on Earth. She always has a pleasant word for her customers, asks about their families and offers tastes of cheese, for free, not just to the person she is serving, but also everyone else in line. Oh, how I hate her.
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