‘Cause everyone loves a good power play…

Oh, wait a minute. No!

But before I start in on this most egregious of things to happen yesterday at work, Happy New Year everyone! Here’s hoping that 2013 will be filled with less of the crap that 2012 brought along with it. Or we can do what people with rational minds do and try to make things better regardless of whatever year we happen to find ourselves in. But yeah, back to the power play thing…

So, I was working at the campus grocery store, as I am wont to do in order to get some of that work-study money. I sometimes think to myself that it would be much more helpful if the feds just paid me the allotted amount upfront but then I take a look at my bank statements and my spending habits and quickly go “Never mind, then. Carry on.” Again, it’s an alright job; lots of movement back and forth so I can at least be somewhat active, lots of putting things from Room A onto Shelf B, it’s repetitive, it’s relatively stress-free as I don’t have to think too hard, and it’s basically a very, very blue collar job, one that someone with a high school diploma could easily expect to do for the rest of their lives. Or at least until the manager shoves off, but that requires a bit of something that is not really “taught” so much as “acquired through other means”. The point is that my job is fairly basic. I know all too well where I stand in the world and that’s alright. It’s not like I’m planning on being a cashier/stocker (or “merchandiser”, as my boss put it) for the rest of my life.

But, of course, what would a Sunday Post be without me bitching about someone who happened to waltz into the store while I was working and then proceed to do something stupid? It’s almost as though I can’t go a weekend without someone being so brain-numbingly idiotic that I don’t feel compelled to parse it out here the next day. I’ve come to expect it, actually, as I have nothing else to write about otherwise. But that’s neither here nor there. Let me just lay out this little gem for you, the first moron of the year.

As is the custom of many convenience stores nowadays, we accept major credit cards and cash in addition to the oft used option of the university meal plan. Be it from a credit union or from a national bank of some sort, as long as it’s either Master Card or Visa, you’re good. Not sure why you’d want to spend almost six bucks for a sandwich that was most likely put out a couple days ago, the paper now soggy with condensation, but you can if you’d like. However, if there is any one thing you need to understand about the campus convenience store, it’s simply that we’re geared to provide for students. Students with meal plans…and nothing else, certainly nothing as fancy and outdated as checks.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely correct. We more likely than not do accept checks as a form of payment because they are a legitimate form of payment. We just don’t cash them. I’m sure my manager can give a clearer and more official answer to that question and resolve it more thoroughly but, really, who the hell still uses checks?

The lady that came in yesterday clearly does. Now, she wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination an “old” lady, graying hair and flaccid skin betraying her age despite the nouveau-chic clothes and powdered face. No, she was simply “older”, probably in her early forties and relatively in good health. She came up to me (the only employee in the store at the time) and asked me, straight face and all, if I could cash her a check. She must have registered the look of bewilderment that certainly crossed my face because she repeated herself, “Can I cash a check here?”

“I’m sorry, we don’t cash checks.” A perfectly worded response. Perfect because it’s, y’know, the truth. In my three years of working at the same place under the same boss, we’ve never been trained in the Art of Cashing A Check. Shoot, I’ve just only rediscovered the now Lost Art of Partial Payment; it was damn handy for when people with a little bit of meal plan money left wanted to polish it off and then pay the rest using credit cards or cash, whatever was most convenient for them. Nobody teaches you that and nobody’s bothered telling anyone (or, at the very least, me) what to do if confronted by someone holding a checkbook.

The lady looked put out, shoulders slumping a bit, mouth in a bit of a frown. Here I thought was the end of it, as my word was honest and firm. But that wouldn’t make for a good tale, now would it? Just as I turned to try and diminish the pile of candies obstructing the middle of the floor, the good woman lifts her head once more and utters the most irrelevant thing in this particular situation: “I work in [insert name of very important and obviously administrative building on campus].” I was a bit flabbergasted for a second but then told her no again, in the most PR way as I could manage, pointed her to the nearest ATM, and bid her good day. She left, not without grumbling about missing the film she most wanted to see and quite possibly angered by the very notion that a cheeky cashier had denied her the expediency someone of her “position” so clearly deserves.

Or not. See, there are stupid customers, who are more like jesters to the bored employee, relatively harmless in their stupidity, and then there are people like this lady, who I’m sure is a very upstanding citizen in nearly all respects but just so happens to be a bit full of herself. I spent a good bit of time turning that conversation over and over in my head; it’s something that I tend to do when I’m not thinking of much else. It’s a bit of a problem, actually, over-thinking, but I engage in it anyway because, really, what else am I supposed to do while I’m moving boxes to and fro? So I’m replaying the encounter again and again and I find what exactly bothers me: Why did she mention her position? More to the point, why did she mention her management of the univeristy and then expect me, as a student of said managed university, to magically submit to her command despite the fact that I had denied her previously? Because, if anything, one “no” should’ve been enough. More than enough; I know more about the capabilities of my position, the things that I’m allowed and not allowed to do at the till, than she does. Why? Because it’s my job and I’m a good employee. It was then that two words popped into my head: “power play”.

There is little that irritates me more than when someone uses their relatively higher position to get something that they want, everything else be damned. Truth be told, I would have been more amenable to finding out what the protocol for such a situation actually was had this fine madam wielded her title more like a rapier and less like a hammer. What can I say? I admire finesse and am disgusted by crude and tactless plays in turn, however “efficient” they may be. Again, this lady might as well have been swinging a hammer upside my head, not that it did her much good, but to what purpose, madam? Don’t people who know they’re going to a film festival carry cash with them, or are the so-called elite who actually have time to kill on a Saturday just beyond paper money? I have no sympathy for the unprepared.

Let me just make this abundantly clear: I don’t care who you are or what you do in life, I’m pretty damn aware that I’m like a cockroach compared to you in terms of current occupation because I work a minimum wage job while you have an office and a salary as well as everything else that comes with that. You can use that all you want and try to prod me into falling in line and doing what you say. Go for it, make me fetch stuff from the back, look for something I already know we don’t have, even double-bag your one item just because it comes in a glass container. But if I say we don’t cash checks, we don’t cash fucking checks. Have a nice day.

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