Thursday, November 13, 2014

Story 56: Change Is Good

            She finished ringing her order on the supermarket’s self-checkout machine, fed her money into it, and waited for her change.  The bills came out all right, but the coins did not dispense.  She distinctly heard them fall before not appearing, so she knew she was not making this up.
            “Excuse me?”  She asked the lone employee overseeing the customers who were taking his co-workers’ jobs.  “Could you help me with this machine?  The change is stuck.”
            “I’ve had problems with that thing all day,” he said, coming over with a sledgehammer.  “A few hits usually do the trick.”
            When the machine still did not release the coins: “Let me call my manager.”
            When the manager arrived, the three of them stared at the machine.  “Did you already use the hammer?”
            “I did.”
            “Did you try shutting it off and turning it back on again?”
            “I did not.”
            They turned it off and back on again – the change remained trapped.
            “What about that button?”  The customer pointed to an unmarked button.
            “Never tried that before,” the manager said.  She toggled it once, plunging the supermarket into darkness.  She hit the button again and the lights came back on.  “Hm.”
            “Number 1 is open,” a customer said to the man waiting in front of her in the line for that area.
            “That’s OK,” he said.  “I’m waiting for that one.”  He nodded towards the machine being worked on where a small crowd had now gathered.  A repairman for the store had arrived and removed the front of the machine.  A cool breeze could be felt coming from the inside.
            “Here’s your change,” he said, removing the quarter from the slot where it had jammed.
            “Would you look at that,” the manager peered with the self-checkout employee and the customer into the darkness inside the machine.
            “I’ve never seen anything like it,” the customer said.
            “Does this come standard with these machines?” the employee asked.
            “No it does not,” the repairman answered, now also gazing in wonder into the machine.
            Once adjusted to the dim light, they could see that a whole other world lay within the interior of the self-checkout machine.  Rolling meadows, clear waterfalls, frolicking animals, and music awaited.  It certainly was unexpected.
            “Well, as a manager, I should be familiar with everything that goes on in this store.”  She gripped the sides of the opening and climbed in.  She soon made her way to the center of the new world and seemed happy.
            “I’ll be your backup,” the employee said, and followed her.
            “I’ll help!”  The customer followed them, leaving her groceries behind.
            “Machine’s fixed, so I’m done,” the repairman secured the cover back onto the machine, placed the quarter on the adjacent shelf, and left.  The music could no longer be heard.
            The customer who was waiting for the machine to be free gently pushed through the remaining crowd of gawkers and proceeded to ring up his order.  The total was $30.25, so he took the quarter from the shelf and deposited it into the machine along with the bills.  The receipt that printed for him read at the bottom:
            “Thanks for the change!”