January is always a long month for our bank account. The extra spent at Christmas plus car registration plus fewer private lessons in December plus January having 31 days often has us getting creative by my husband’s teacher payday, which is the last day of the month.
Tomorrow’s payday, and I raided my husband’s coin can for quarters to take to the grocery store. I could have taken them to coinstar, but they take a percentage, and I would have had to go to two stores—the one with the coinstar and then the one I like.
“Did you know you have thirty dollars in quarters?” I asked.
I was thrilled that I had thirty dollars to spend on groceries. Since tomorrow’s payday and I had a gift card for dinner, I knew it would be more than enough to cover lunch for the three of us and dinner for our daughter. I put on my Not My Precedent shirt and hoped that the liberal employees and hopefully liberal people behind me in line would like it enough to forgive me for paying in quarters.
Placing my items on the conveyor belt, I told the cashier, “I chose you because I didn’t think you’d get mad about my paying in quarters. You’ve worked here long enough to have seen it all.” No one was behind me in line yet.
The cashier didn’t blink an eye. He rang me up for $23.67.
I handed him a plastic baggie. “This is twenty dollars.” I reached into my pocket and counted out $3.75. “You can trust me our count it.”
“I have to count it,” he said. “Sorry.”
As the checker stacked the quarters in towers of four, a guy got in line behind me. I was just glad he hadn’t gotten there until the cashier was almost done counting. My twenty dollars was accurate, and I handed over the other $3.75.
“You know what?” the guy behind me said.
“Why don’t you,” he continued, “keep your quarters and let me pay for your groceries? I’ve had to pay for dinner in quarters before.”
It took me a couple seconds to answer. I took in his age (probably not quite as old as me) and his Starfleet Academy teeshirt*, and I wondered if he had noticed that I was buying not one, but two bags of totally unnecessary chips. I wondered if he would care that I went to see a movie last week with what could have been grocery money. I wondered if he would care that I only work a few hours a week so that I can have more time for writing and taking my kid to music lessons. I considered God, and the fact that I had hoped no one would be upset with me for paying in quarters. This answer seemed above and beyond.
My eyes welled up a bit. “Okay.”
It took a while for the cashier to get all my quarters back in the bag. I stood there awkwardly, saying only “Thank you,” and “I hope it all comes back to you,” since he said something about karma. I thought about Star Trek, and how anyone I’ve ever known who really loves it is open to other cultures and to exploration and to being generous. I wondered if he’d see me at the restaurant later and I’d have to say “It’s a gift card! Really!” I even wondered if the guy would have been in the state of mind to be so generous if we weren’t all reeling from Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban.”
Day before yesterday, I wrote about getting a hug from a stranger named Margie. Today I’m writing about the Starfleet Academy and the kind of people who “graduate” from it. This might have to be what saves America for me. I don’t know if our protests and phone calls will save us from what the new administration has planned. But I do know that I am looking a little harder for people to bless these days, and it seems that others of you are, too. Thank you. Live long and prosper, friends.
*or some such sciency shirt – could have been something nonfictional, but you get the drift