Oops by Evan Barragate

Dime | U.S. Mint

In the first blog I wrote last year, I talked about my inability to facilitate cash payments when I was working at a restaurant. Essentially, my point was that I can’t count or do math. I would freeze when I had to handle cash, count it incorrectly, or run away and let someone else deal with the customer. Looking back, I think this had less to do with me being bad at math (not that I’m good at math — because I’m still horrible at it) and more the result of new-job nerves. After getting past my first job, I thought that this would never be an experience I would face again. I thought that by my second job, I would know enough to avoid such an awkward crisis. But alas, I thought wrong — like I usually do. Now I have a new job where I cut cheese, a task in which you wouldn’t expect anything to go wrong. Unless you cut your finger off, but nothing like that has happened yet.

I was new to the register and lacked expertise in the field of cheese. Though as long as my supervisor lingered near me, I could handle customer interactions, knowing that she could jump in and take the wheel. No one came to the store all day. Until my supervisor started going to the bathroom or the storage area in the back, which kept happening periodically for some reason. When she was gone, I was alone. And every time she left, a crowd of customers came. It was like a Whack-A-Mole game: my supervisor left, the customers came; she came back, the customers left. In these intervals in which I worked by myself, I had to help customers without having someone else to rescue me. This led to many catastrophes of awkwardness. The first that ensued that day was at the register.

A woman came up to the store asking for a hunk of cheese, which was simple enough. All I had to do was pass it to her and ring her out. I had gotten used to the register, so there was no reason to stress over that. “Your total is ten dollars and fifty cents,” I told her with a smile. She’s going to reach into her bag, pull out her credit card, put it into the machine, and then it’ll be done. I will have gotten through this interaction without messing anything up. Then she reached into her bag to pull out her credit card. But when she pulled her hand out, she wasn’t holding a credit card: it was a wad of cash. My heart sank and I stopped smiling. As I said, I really don’t know how to count. She passed me a ten and a one, which I stared at like I was reading directions in Mandarin. But I promise you, I’m not as much of an idiot as I’m making myself out to be (which I’m sure is difficult to believe). I knew in the back of my head that she paid me fifty cents more than the price of what she bought, so I should have given her fifty cents in return. But no. I reached into the register, took out a one-dollar bill, put it together with the eleven dollars she had given me, and passed it right back to her. Right back. Twelve dollars in change for a purchase worth $10.50. I couldn’t even begin to explain why I did this. After I plopped this money in front of her, I gave a dumb grin. She gave me a look that was as if I had just peed myself in front of her. Then she slowly slid the cash back toward me and said (in the nicest way she could) “Noooo. That’s not right.”

After that, I laughed as if I realized how stupid my action had been. Though in reality, I knew it was stupid as I was doing it. But for some reason went through the motions anyway. I put the cash in the register, took out a quarter, and passed it to her … as if one quarter were worth fifty cents. I passed it confidently, even though the coin is literally called a QUARTER, as in a quarter of a dollar, not half a dollar — as half-dollar coins were discontinued before I was born and I had never seen one in real life. “Still no,” she said. And then I realized what coin was in my hand. I went in to reach for a second quarter, and before I had the chance to pull anything out (which could have been a hundred-dollar bill based on what this customer had seen of me), she said “You know, you can keep the change if you want. I’ll leave it as a tip.” So in the end, I got some extra change for the store. Maybe I’ll just say that was my intention throughout the exchange.

Things like this happened throughout the shift whenever my supervisor would step out. Any customer who came up when I was working the register was either going to be lucky or unlucky; they were either getting way too much back in change or not enough. Either way, no one was getting the correct change from me. Perhaps the incorrect change I give is the result of a divine force that acts through me to reward people with extra change for their good deeds — and to punish those who have sinned by not giving enough back. Perhaps I’m just a little stupid, which is probably more likely. Either way, I hope no one who might consider hiring me ever Googles me and reads this.

5 thoughts on “Oops by Evan Barragate

  1. this is so funny because it happens to me on the regular. last week there was a woman who handed me a 20 and a 50 for a 60 dollar bill and i asked her where the rest of her money was. math is hard!

  2. I laughed so hard reading this. I also feel like I need to come buy cheese from you, and that the fates will pass their decree on my inherent goodness or state of sin, based on whether you end up actually paying me to buy the cheese, or whether I will be punished and end up paying double.

  3. Counting money is so hard for no reason. On the register where I work, we just type in how much money the customer hands us and it automatically does the math for us, which is a total lifesaver. HOWEVER, sometimes someone will hand me cash and I will type that in, but then they will hand me change and my mind ALWAYS blanks and I suddenly have no idea what to do, so I will literally say, “I’m sorry, once I plug in the money that you gave me we can’t adjust it” and have to deal with them being annoyed. But whatever!

  4. i’m lucky i worked at a job with a register that always told me the exact change because this would definitely be me lol

  5. This made me feel so much better about my many embarrassing mistakes at work. I will never understand why as soon as I clock in I just turn into the most incompetent version of myself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *