I was off work the other day, so of course I had to go into The Store. It is, in fact, my goal to spend every single day of my existence at that place, no matter how much I loathe it. I’m talking with my wife on the phone. She’s giving me a list of things to buy: eggs, bread, cheese. That sort of thing. And then the following exchange took place.

Wife: “…oh, and get a gallon of milk.”

Me: “Okay… is that all?”

Wife: “Make sure you buy the latest date.”

Me: “What?”

Wife: “Umm… make sure you check the dates on the milk and find one that –”

Me: “I know how to buy milk!”

Wife (laughing): “I know…”

Me: “We work in a grocery store!

Seriously. For a dozen years, I’ve worked in the grocery business, and I’m quite familiar with the concept of putting the freshest milk in the back of the case. They stock it from the back. Not that everyone doesn’t know this, already. You always see people digging through the milk looking for that one gallon that has an expiration date that lies 2 or 3 months into the future, when the rest of the surrounding vile plebeians will have to contend with their milk going out of date a mere 24 hours after they buy it.

You’ll notice I didn’t say, “go bad”. I believe milk is already bad when you first buy it. It was never that great of a drink to begin with. And even though I don’t agree with this particular liquid being used as anything more than an ingredient, I do know, for the love of God, how to buy the freshest milk.

I’ve spent the last 6 years struggling to convince my wife that I do, after all, know how things work.

So, I’ve got my items, and I’m proceeding towards the self-checkout machines. I get in line behind a large man and his wife who start checking out their order. When he is finished and ready to pay, he starts rummaging around in his pocket with a frown on his face. He turns to me.

“Hey man… you got seven cents I can borrow?”

Borrow? You are a complete stranger. Should I also give you a self-addressed stamped envelope so you can mail my seven cents back to me? I don’t like to carry change, but I instinctively put my hand into my pocket anyway, just to make it seem like I would give him seven cents if it weren’t for the fact that, sadly, I had no change at all —

Just then, to my shock and horror, coins rattled in my pocket. I was stuck now, and so retrieved the change from my jeans. Two quarters. Saved!

“Sorry, man. All I’ve got is a couple of quarters.” I said, the conversation being ended in my mind.

“Lemme see that quarter,” the man said, stretching out his hand toward my quarters. Then he added, “I don’t want to break a twenty.”

Confused, I closed my hand over the two coins. Break a twenty? This man had given me the impression that he was seven cents short on paying his bill, when this entire time he had a twenty dollar bill just waiting to be spent? I wanted to shout into this man’s face, “I have FIFTY CENTS! You have TWENTY DOLLARS!”

Instead, I did the honorable thing: I lied.

“Sorry man, I’ve got to… buy a soda.”

He grunted, broke his precious twenty, and left. I checked out my few items, and walked out the door. Then I saw them in the parking lot, still getting groceries packed into their car. They looked at me. Sighing to myself and rolling my eyes, I made a clumsy 90 degree turn and used my two quarters to purchase a Coke out of the machine.

I wasn’t even thirsty.