THE OTHER NIGHT I think I may have stumbled into the Twilight Zone through some mysterious portal at my local convenience store. Here’s what happened:
I’d driven to Hardee’s and ordered a chicken sandwich. Not wanting to pay $10+ for a combo meal, I figured I’d just get the sandwich and then swing by a local convenience store where I knew a 12-oz can of Pepsi went for a buck.
At the convenience store, I scanned the cooler where they usually kept the 99-cent cans of Pepsi, but they were gone – replaced by rows of energy drinks. No problem; I just headed over to the main coolers where I spotted some 16-oz cans of ‘wild cherry’ Pepsi for $1.29. That was fine, so I grabbed a can and headed for the counter.
A 20-something young lady  tattooed with a pierced tongue – rang me up. I gave her two ones, and she handed me a handful of change. I was in a bit of a hurry and somewhat preoccupied, but I did snap out of my reverie long enough to hear her say something about the total being a dollar-sixty something.
As I pocketed my change, my math-challenged brain signaled me: “Hmmmm . . . the deposit and sales tax on $1.29 certainly isn’t forty-some cents – do they even tax pop?”
“Excuse me, but I think this pop was marked $1.29 at the cooler.”
Without a word, she sullenly marched over to the cooler where there were two, yellow $1.29 tags prominently displayed on the top shelf of Pepsi.
She promptly peeled the two tags off and marched back to the register. I followed.
“Give me your change back” she muttered.
“I need your change back in order to refund the difference.”
I said, “Why do you need my change? I don’t even know how much change you gave me, ‘cuz you just gave me fistful of coins!”
“You didn’t even pay attention to how much change I gave you?!”
As she smugly lectured me, I could see that silver post flashing as her tongue flapped. My blood pressure started to rise, “No. Maybe if you would have counted out the change, I might have remembered!”
“I need the change back, or my drawer won’t come out right!”
“Why do I need to give you any change back? All you need to do is refund me the difference between what you rang up and $1.29!”
“Can’t do that. My drawer won’t come out right!”
I stood there silent for a moment and then started to chuckle, “You’re kidding me!”
Indignant she suddenly put one hand on her hip, and with the other hand – pointed to the door. “Leave, if you’re going to make fun of me!!”
“I’m not making fun of you. I simply can’t believe you’re making this so complicated!”
By this time I happened to notice an elderly man standing quietly behind me while the clerk and I went back and forth over a lousy 20 or 30 cents. Seeing him waiting there patiently kind of jolted me back to reality.
Exasperated, I cut our discussion short and headed towards the exit. Just as I pushed open the door, the clerk quizzically called out, “Don’t you want your 20 cents?”
To quote Woody Allen after an unsettling encounter with Christopher Walken in Annie Hall:
Right . . . Well, I have to go now . . . because I’m due back on the planet Earth.”