What do cashiers say…

“Hiiiiii,” the young cashier drawls. She has short, bleach-blonde hair, bright blue eyes and the shadow to match. The only thing taking away from all of the brightness around her eye area is the siren-red red lipstick she’s wearing. There’s a noticeable line running across her jawline that divides foundation from real skin.

I stop piling my groceries on the conveyor belt to smile at her. “Hi,” I say back. “How are you?”

But she’s not listening to me. She’s got one of my Uncle Ben’s Bistro Express packets in her hands and she’s peering down at it. I watch her, sort of arrange my food on the belt a bit so as not to make it completely obvious, but I’m thinking what’s up with the rice, girl? It’s kind of creepy, how interested she is in my rice.

She looks up at me and frowns. “Ew, they make this in rice form now?”

And in my head I’m like, rice form? What does that mean? Is she knockin’ my minute rice? But what comes out of my mouth next is part apologetic, part defensive.

“My husband wanted me to buy them. You know, for his lunches,” I trail off. Please think I’m cool.

She gives me a blank look before reaching for more food to scan. I am so not cool.

I get the rest of my food on the belt, push my cart down to the end and start bagging.

“Did you see the newspaper?” She’s talking to me again. She’s got one of my loaves of bread in her hands, but she’s not scrutinizing it or anything. Instead, she’s kind of staring off down Aisle 3.

I shake my head. “No, not today’s,” I say. “Why, did I miss something good?” I’m trying to keep my tone light, but I don’t think I’m doing a very good job.

She scans my milk. “Did you see the picture on the front page?”

I pause. “Not today.” I bite my tongue.

“They pulled a car out of the water. Did you hear about that?” She consults her register, presses a couple of buttons. “Sixty-seven thirty-three,” she says, and when she turns back to me her smile is so wide and so bright that I can’t help it. I smile back at her, just as big.

“I did hear about that, yeah. Crazy, eh?” I ask, and she agrees that it’s crazy. I swipe my card, stripe in, and thank her when she hands me my receipt.

I stand at the end of the belt and bag my groceries and listen as she chit-chats with the next person in line. So she’s not down with minute rice, I think to myself, and she’s heavy on the face paint. At least she talked to me. Most cashiers these days don’t even acknowledge my presence. No smile or eye contact, and heaven forbid any pleasantries.

I catch her eye as I push my cart away. “Have a nice day,” she calls to me.

“Thanks, you too,” I say back to her.

And I mean it.