| "Maybe you just woke up on the wrong side of the bed."
Hannah was pouring herself a cup of coffee as she spoke, giving Melissa a sympathetic look. Melissa was not comforted.
"It's just, I wake up every morning, have breakfast, scan groceries all day, and then come home, watch TV, and sleep," Melissa sighed over her own cup of coffee. "It just seems so tedious. Isn't there anything, I don't know, more interesting I could do?"
"Not if you want to make money."
Melissa sighed again and pushed herself off the kitchen stool. "Whatever. If I sit around any longer I'm going to be late. See you at dinner."
Beep. Beep. Beep.
Melissa swore none of the customers could have guessed how obnoxious the sound got after item number two-hundred-something. In front of her, a middle-aged man with a buzz-cut waited with a bored expression on his face. Melissa was sure her face looked the same, but she forced herself to smile.
"Good morning, how are you today?"
"Mmm," he made a sound, barely even looking at her.
Melissa held back a sigh. "Good to hear…."
"How are you today?"
"How are you doing?"
"Did you find everything you needed?"
After asking the same questions a hundred-or-so times and receiving very little in reply, Melissa was beginning to wonder why she was even required to ask. People came to buy groceries, not chat with the cashier at the checkout.
A young woman with a ridiculous amount of groceries—how many people was she feeding?—arrived at the front of the line. The amount of energy with which she loaded up the conveyor belt was tiring. Her ponytail swung a bit as she hurried up to the register.
"How are you doing today?" Melissa tried not to let her boredom show.
"I'm doing wonderfully, thank you!" She handed Melissa her credit card. Melissa looked down at it and saw elephants.
"Actually, you can just scan it over there," she said, pointing.
"Oh, right, I always forget!" The woman smiled and took the card back. "And how are you doing?"
Melissa was surprised by the question, and turned her head to the side as she pressed the proper buttons on the screen. "Good…." she said, not bothering to make her voice sound convincing. Just a few more minutes until lunch break….
The woman chuckled. "Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed." Melissa looked over at her sharply, which made the woman chuckle again. "Sorry, sorry. Just a joke…."
When the clock hit one and the last customer was shooed away, Melissa darted for the lunchroom.
"Hey, Melissa," Ray called out as she waited by the microwave.
"Anything interesting happen?"
"A woman had a credit card with elephants on it," Melissa replied. Highlight of the day, apparently.
He laughed. "Don't look so jaded. You're going to scare away customers."
She sighed. "Don't you ever get bored?"
Ray threw his head back to finish the rest of his coffee and shrugged. "Sure I do. But I like meeting all of the different people."
"You sound like you're interviewing for the job."
"Hey, it keeps me smiling." He shook his head at Melissa. "Try talking to them like you would a friend," he said, leaning against the counter. "It makes things more interesting."
The microwave started beeping, and Melissa pulled out her lunch. "If you say so."
"Can I have an Airhead, pleeaasseee?"
The child's voice was shrill, and it made Melissa flinch.
"No, honey, we were here yesterday and I bought you one." The child's mom continued to load groceries as she spoke.
"But Jay took them from me and ate them!" the child protested.
"No, I didn't!"
"Yes, you did!"
Then the crying started. Melissa sighed and scanned a bottle of Advil.
"Don't mind them," the mother said. "They've been like that all day. Must have woken up on the wrong side of the bed."
Melissa smiled wryly to hear the phrase again, and remembered what Ray had said about pretending customers were friends. "I know how they feel," she muttered.
The woman smiled. "Just make sure you wake up on the right side tomorrow… No, Jaime, put that down!"
It was amazing how much adults could sound like children.
"I can't believe you would use up the last of our minutes without even thinking of me."
The husband looked exasperated, and he threw the milk jug on the belt a little too roughly. Melissa flinched. "Penny, I hadn't talked to Fred in weeks, and he just went on this big trip—"
"And what about me? I have work calls to make, and—"
"God, we can just go to the store after this and buy more. No need to get to upset."
When the wife opened her mouth, Melissa decided it was time to cut in. "Did you find everything you needed?"
The couple turned to face her.
"Yes," the woman said, and returned her gaze to her husband. "That's not the point. You just… what were you thinking?" The woman sighed, looking exhausted.
"Maybe you both just woke up on the wrong side of the bed," Melissa suggested, hoping to diffuse the tension. It was what she would do for a friend, after all.
This time, when the couple turned to face her, Melissa took a step back.
"Excuse me?" The husband shot a glare at Melissa. "What did you say to us?"
"Um, I just meant that maybe…"
"I want to speak to your manager!" he declared, and Melissa flinched as all the heads turned.
She sighed. This was what she got for listening to Ray. "Right away, sir…."
When Melissa got home, Hannah was already sitting at the kitchen table, watching the evening news. Melissa threw her bag onto the table and collapsed into the seat next to her.
"Bad day at work?" Hannah asked.
Melissa scowled. "I'm sleeping on the couch tonight."