She places four yoghurts on the counter and other miscellania. Handing over two of the yoghurts, she holds up the other two and asks me which one she should buy.
Surprisingly, I give the decision actual consideration. Strawberry or a mixed fruit selection. I hesitate, and in that time she makes up her own mind. Mixed fruit it is. I finally tell her as I’m scanning the tub that I prefer strawberry, but it’s up to her.
It’s not the first time I’ve served this woman. On previous occasions she has always done something wacky and is constantly fidgety. I notice, a few checkouts away, a fellow operator watching me. She pulls a face and twirls a finger near her head, indicating that she knows my customer and thinks she’s missing a few screws. Maybe more than a few, since she’s making the effort to communicate her views with me.
I try not to let what I’ve witnessed register on my face and continue to smile at the customer pleasantly.
‘What time is it?’ she asks abruptly.
I check my monitor. ‘It’s 10:15a.m.’
She looks away, her eyes darting in every direction. She rummages around in her bag but emerges empty-handed. I scan more of her items.
A moment later – ‘What’s the time now?’
Another glance at the computer screen. ‘The time is now 10:16a.m.’ Another pleasant smile.
She pays for her purchases and tells me various things about her day, the items she’s buying, and other bits and pieces that I’ve now forgotten. I nod and smile and offer appropriate responses and wait for her to gather her bags and leave. She finally does, without making eye contact or giving any parting remark.
I turn to the next customer and give them a friendly smile. Just another day on the job.