alarming time

I was the “Fat Lady” at a Buck or Two

by Kim Cooper

My post-secondary years were filled with complete inner turmoil and humiliation. I was 40 pounds overweight and I spent my weekends working double shifts at a Buck or Two. There I stood, on the raised podium, ringing in ridiculous orders of various things worth a dollar.

“That’s eleven dollars.” I informed the frizzy-haired lady who may have just emerged from a parking lot brawl where she lost in the twelfth round.

“Eleven dollars? I don’t think that’s right. You better ring it in again.” She raised her voice and squinted her beady eyes.

Did she really want me to recount her eleven items? Her fists were clenched and I swear I spotted saliva drooling down her chin. Yep, apparently she was dead serious.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. That’s eleven dollars.” I repeated.

“That doesn’t seem right. I better count them myself. Give them to me!”  She demanded, grabbing each item and dividing them into two piles: counted and non-counted.

She counted to eleven.

“Well, that’s absurd! I’m not paying eleven dollars for this!” She madly rifled through her pile of stuff and tossed random unwanted items in an abandoned basket on the floor (said items included a tacky ornament of a frog wearing a bonnet and a bootlegged VHS copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot).

“There. I’m not taking those.” She smirked and crossed her arms in a victory stance.

“Okay, no problem,” I answered. “That’s nine dollars.”

She nastily glared at me and replied, “Aren’t you going to count them again?”

Sigh.

This was a fine example of my Saturdays and Sundays working at a dollar store. My breaks were my most sacred time, and as soon as I finished counting her nine items (twice), I stepped off the podium to go on mine. As I walked to the back of the store, two young boys stopped me on my way.

“Excuse me, how much is this?” One of them asked, holding up a pack of cars.

“One dollar.” I answered smiling, relieved for the shift in focus from the unruly grumpy pants customer.

“Okay, thanks.” They looked down at the cars and argued with each other. “Bobby, I told you, we do have enough money! The fat lady said it’s only a dollar.”

Huh?

Full stop.

Fat Lady?

Stunned.

If that wasn’t a strong enough blow to the self-esteem, the other boy replied: “I know that! But we need to find out if we have enough for two packs. Let’s ask the fat lady again.”

If I tried to convince myself the first time that they had actually said, “Bat Lady” or “Vat Lady” (oddly enough, either of these “Lady’s” was preferred), there was no denying it the second time.

I couldn’t let them witness the “Fat Lady” sprinting away at top speed barely making it past the topsy-turvy bandana rack at the end of the aisle, so I just shook my head “no” as the tears welled up in my eyes.

I never imagined that I’d grow up to be the “Fat Lady” at the dollar store.

Profound takeaways after that alarming time when I was the “Fat Lady” at a Buck or Two:

  • Never head to the back office for a break: exit the store immediately and avoid all eye contact with kids who have no filter and speak the truth.
  • There are categorically worse things than facing a disgruntled human being who’d love nothing more than to violently throw a cream pie in your face.
  • Be prepared with positive self-talk strategies in the comfort and safety of your own home (which may or may not include playing Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On for One More Day” on loop, all while desperately trying to ignore the bag of cheese puffs you enshrouded in maximum strength Duct Tape and then hastily heaved into the crawl space as a last-ditch weight loss effort).