Anne Peterson

I write stories and goosebump poetry

39 cents

Photo courtesy of Jessica Peterson.

It’s not about the lettuce.

It started out like any other day. I worked in a small National Tea Grocery store. It was Friday and the store was pretty full. The time would go pretty fast and I was okay with that.

Once in a while, there would be a “price check,” otherwise it was business as usual.

Or so I thought.

I remember ringing up her head of lettuce.

My fingers hit the keys, 49 cents. The days before scanners.

“That was 39 cents.” she snapped.

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“You charged me 49 cents for the lettuce. It’s on sale for 39 cents.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” I quickly said. I’ll take the 10 cents off right now.

“You’re sorry? YOU’RE SORRY? This isn’t the first time you’ve overcharged me. Every time I come in your line you overcharge me.”

By then I could feel my face getting warm. My apology had fallen on deaf ears. And not only that, now my mistake was being labeled deliberate. Something I did on a regular basis.

But she wasn’t done yet. Not yet.

“Maam, if I always overcharge you,” I said quietly, “why do you come in my line?”

Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t have to ask. But there was a part of me that wanted to defend myself. I didn’t overcharge her or anyone else. I didn’t want mud on my reputation.

“Why do I come in your line? Why do I come in YOUR LINE? Do you think I come in your line because I LIKE you?”

Clearly, that had not crossed my mind.

“I come in YOUR line because it’s the closest one to the door! Listen, why don’t you go back to Greece, or Italy, or WHEREVER you’re from.”

And there it was. She did hate me. It had nothing to do with lettuce. It was a personal preference. I was the wrong person.

My face reddened and I felt like she had stomped all over me.

“Richard!” I yelled, as my voice crackled.

I didn’t have to recount the situation to the assistant manager. He had heard it. In fact, everyone in the store had heard. But to be certain she once again repeated it verbatim as her anger seethed through her teeth.

Richard listened as good managers do and finally answered.

“Maam, she’s already apologized to you. She refunded the ten cents. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t give you the right to talk to one of my girls that way.

He stood up for me. She tried taking my dignity and he gave it back.

I never recall seeing her again. But sometimes, when I see a head of lettuce…

About Anne Peterson

I write words you can feel, sometimes they rhyme. If I’m not writing, I’m telling stories from my head, to little ones who call me grandma.

33 Replies

  1. It’s hard to believe people can be so mean. Harder still to believe someone could be so mean to you, Anne. I guess with time and perspective, we come to realize that people who are that angry and resentful are punishing themselves and probably we should pity them.

    1. Kathleen,
      Thanks for reading. Years later I realize no one knows what this woman was going through to have reacted like that. We never know people’s stories.

  2. I can’t tell you how many times that’s happened to me. I don’t even know myself. Only there was never anyone to stand up for me. That’s why when I read “the Lord is my portion..” it means all that much more to me. The world taught me shame, but Jesus crowns me a princess, a daughter of the King.

    1. Yes, we are daughters of the king. Satan would love us to be shamed. It was wonderful to have someone stand up for me. And years later, to know God has always been standing up for me. Always.

  3. She was very nasty, and I would probably wanted to punch her in the face. It’s a good thing she didn’t get me, ha ha ha, that’s the Brooklyn in me. I give you a lot of credit and I like your manager. Also, you write amazing, I can see why Karen says you are one of her favorite writers. 🙂

    1. Aw, thanks Pilar. Miss you. And I find it hard to believe you would actually punch someone.

  4. Terrible, Anne. I am so sorry. I hope though, whenever you see a head of lettuce, you remember Richard’s kindness rather than her ugliness.

    1. Yes, I really don’t have negative views about it anymore. She must have really been an unhappy person.

    2. Yes, that would be the best attitude to think of how God helped me through Richard.

  5. Boy Anne words can penetrate our souls faster than water through a screen. I’m so glad that you were defended. It reaffirmed your value that was taken away by the words this woman said. Thank you for sharing its an important reminder of how our words can lift up or tear down.

    1. Troy,

      I agree, words can do so much damage. Yes, it did reaffirm my value. My manager really looked out for us. Thanks for reading and for your comments.

  6. Kurt

    I’ve had some of those, it would have been nice to have someone stick up for me…. Not sure that it doesn’t still get triggered at times. Thank you for sharing..

    1. Kurt,

      Anytime someone sticks up for us, it’s nice. Sorry to hear you’ve had some of those too.

  7. Ouch! I wonder what provoked the woman? People can be vicious. So glad to hear your manager stood up for you.

    1. Maria,

      Not sure what provoked her, maybe she really had a bad day. Yes, it was nice my manager stood up for me. He was a really nice guy.

  8. katinavaselopulos

    Beautiful post, Anne, again that shows me that we…people…are unpredictable. As you alluded, not always because we are nasty but maybe because we are facing issues we cannot deal with and burst out in anger or any other behavior without knowing why.

    It is very important to look beyond our anger outbreaks before they get to that point for hints of fear or pain and try to fix it at that level.

    There is a fine line within that once we cross it, we can so easily loose control, in one way or another.

    Being on the other end …the recipient of that anger…not a good thing. Having someone else support you it is a good thing….being more understanding looking back, show that you have matured during the time that passed.

    You are a beautiful person, because with all the hurt and challenges you have grown and healed a great deal. Proud of you!

  9. Thanks, Katina. Thanks for reading it and for your thoughtful comments.

  10. Anna Berlekamp

    I once had a sales representative that worked for me named Robert, who was from Mexico City and had the heaviest Latino accent to prove it. I was apprehensive that people in our small Kentucky town would not be gracious to him because he was different. It was a pleasant surprise when most people seemed to quickly love his incredible personality and sense of humor, and appreciated his uniqueness.

    Then there was THAT lady, who wouldn’t give him the time of day and snipped every question at him. Finally, she crossed the line asking him accusingly, “Are you Arabic or some kind of Spanish person?” Before I could open my mouth to ask her to go, Robert immediately responded in his best accent with a giant smile, “No, I’m just Chinese.” She was just dumbfounded and left without another word.

    Robert reminded me that day of Proverbs 26:4-5 –
    4Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
    or you yourself will be just like him.
    5Answer a fool according to his folly,
    or he will be wise in his own eyes.

    1. Anna,

      What a great story and I love the reference to Proverbs. Thanks for reading my post and for your comments.

  11. Anna Berlekamp

    I nearly forgot to mention, I just started reading this blog, but I really love it. Your stories are always beautifully told.

    1. Anna,

      What a nice thing to say about my blogs. Thank you so much.

  12. Nice one, Anne. The past weekend my son bought milk for their boat and the checking lady rang up 16 000 euro’s. My son was amused while she yelled at her son, who did the pricing. People like the one you describe are luckily few and far between.

    1. Patricia,

      That story flew into my head yesterday and I enjoyed sharing it. I know I have so many I want to share. Thanks for reading it and for your comment.

  13. Wow Anne! That reminds me of how Jesus comes and defends us. Glad you had support from your manager. It took me back to some of my experiences as a cashier.

    1. Tammy,

      Yes. Jesus, the true defender. He still makes intercession for us with the words, “Father, she believes in me.” Thanks for reading Tammy and for taking time to comment.

  14. Felt the pain right with you! The anger, frustration, hurt. Every time you see a head of lettuce. Maybe it really is about the lettuce. Maybe it’s time to let the little, leafy, green stuff free. Poor lettuce. On the other hand, your ability to take the lettuce and make a strong, clear life-lesson out of it is priceless. You help me see God’s presence in all the supposedly little moments of life. Thanks!

    1. Brad,

      Actually, I just wanted to end it like that. I’m really okay with lettuce. I must have forgiven her a long time ago. Maybe when I realized hurting people hurt people.

      The memory just popped into my head yesterday as I was asking what I could write about that others might relate to.

      Thanks for reading Brad, and for your comments.

  15. Katy

    I’m so proud he stood up for you. You deserve every bit of dignity the world can give.

    1. Katy,

      Thanks for reading and for your comment. The truth is, every person is valuable. Everyone deserves dignity.

  16. WoW! What a story! But what I love most is how your manager covered the indignant moment with grace and setting a healthy boundary. Your response too was one of grace. Not many people would be able to keep their cool. There is power in having one’s dignity restored. It just reminds me of the grace of God, who stood for us even when we mocked Him, spat at Him, denied Him, called Him a liar, and refused to believe – still He covered us with grace and chose to love us more ardently. Thanks for this post!

    1. Thanks so much for reading my post, and for your comments. I love being reminded of God’s grace. You’re right. He did stand for us even when he was mocked, spit on, denied, and called a liar. His love was amazing. And He displayed that even though he knew some would never believe.

  17. Anne this story was wound tight and had me seething, so well written it sizzled off the page. Thanks for sharing a memory, even though it was not a good one you really set the mood.

  18. Kath,

    I have to admit when it happened I didn’t expect it being just a young girl. Naive I guess. But, I saw it as an isolated incident. Most of the customers liked me. This memory doesn’t hurt. It’s just one that popped in my head the other day.

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