This is why I don’t do self-checkout. I was at Schnucks with my dad
and he was overcharged for 2 out of 10 things. This happens almost
every time we do self-checkout. Dad is somewhat hard of hearing,
occasionally stubborn, so I get it when he insists on using self-checkout,
but then I’m the one who has to stand in line at customer service and
unload everything onto the counter. Ragu Pasta Sauce was 3 for $5.
Dad got 3 but was charged for $8. Chicken sausages were buy one,
get one free. Dad got 4 and was charged for 4. It’s embarrassing, and to
top everything else off,
dad was trying to return a bad batch of flowers, and since it wasn't on his
Rewards Card they made him jump through hoops to exchange it.
My dad’s a sweetheart but highly principled, and if crossed
he’s known to slam a bouquet of Carnations onto the service counter and
around unaroused, like there’s been some misunderstanding.
—"Say it. . .” nothing but
the friendly faces of employees.
Once upon a time, I worked at this Creve Coeur store
and once when I was out back for a cigarette break,
I set free a gold helium balloon trapped behind a dumpster.
In bubbly cursive it read: Best Day Ever.
From above, higher than the Schnucks rooftop,
high enough to make out the crack in the heart-shaped lake,
higher than the Schnucks dumpsters
and the crumbling asphalt, the shiny gold balloon,
long hair flowing, an unrequited love suicide,
mangled in the dead leaves, plastic bags,
and dried weeds, a tiny man, ancient, shouting—
twisting in the wind, the other side of the balloon reads:
Grand Opening! Every new mall like a fresh start.
Back then, there was a manager, Zach,
who’d intentionally hide trash in corners
to see if I was sweeping properly.
Um. . . I think you missed this area.
A man like that whose hair is very much in place,
like a tulip, knows how to bring an MBA degree
to grocery store management.
was not a zip code unto himself.
Robert Fitterman is the author of 15 books of poetry, including "Rob’s Word Shop" (Ugly Duckling Presse), "No Wait, Yep. Definitely Still Hate Myself" (Ugly Duckling Presse), "This Window Makes Me Feel" (Ugly Duckling Presse), "Rob the Plagiarist" (Roof Books), and "Metropolis," published in four volumes. Forthcoming in Spring 2024 is "Creve Coeur" (Winter Editions). (Image Credit: drawing by Don Colley)