AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 4/03/2004 12:09:00 PM ----- BODY:

It's the little things.

"Got ID?" The pencil-necked kid behind the counter at Cumberland Farms asks me, dangling my $5.50 pack of Marlboros over the counter. "It's in the car," I said. He raised his eyebrows. "Okay, fine." I returned moments later, just a little wetter from the rain outside. Which, by the way, had already blown a transformer in Nashua sky-high while we sat at the Longhorn Steakhouse, plunging the restaurant into darkness and fire-alarm chaos, and darkening the entire power grid from Barnes and Noble down to the Outback, including every convenience store and gas station, with their $3.30 packs of cigarettes and cashiers who weren't total goobers, in between. That's just the way this week has been. Goober scrutinizes my license, tiliting it ths way and that under the lights. He makes me stop counting out change for the overpriced butts and look up at him. "Hmm," he says skeptically. "Different hairstyle." Now I look up at him with a much different facial expression. You know. The better for him to compare with my license picture. "But okay," he says, as if "he'll let it go this time.' Mentally, I give him the finger. My purchases, aforementioned pack of Marlboros and a bottle of Poland Spring, come to $6.29. I carefully count out $6.30. Now, normally, cashiers at the gas stations I frequent will not even bother handing over the penny. Nobody wants a penny nowadays. A dollar bill is becoming as useless as pennies used to be about ten years ago--so you can imagine where this puts pennies. The chief function of pennies nowadays, for the most part, is to sit in the little "take a penny, leave a penny" tray on counters of convenience stores. So the cashier will usually either plop the penny into the tray directly, or let me do it. Not Goober. He held out the penny between his geeky little thumb and forefinger like it was a priceless Peruvian coin, recovered from an ancient shipwreck. I took it and plopped it in the tray. And then the motherfucker took the penny out of the tray and put it back in the cash register. Wait just a goddamn minute here, ya tool. First of all, that penny, having been given to me in change from a purchase, does not belong to the store. It does not belong in Goober's drawer. It belongs to the fucking plastic tray, is where it belongs, for the next person who has to encounter Goober when they're approximately $0.03 short. Because you know Goober's not going to let it go. Nope, they're going to have to squeeze three more cents out of their assholes before he'll just wave them along. So, beforehand, I help them out. I put my useless pennies in the tray, and the guy that $0.03 will really benefit gets it. But no. Goober takes the penny, and puts it in his cash register drawer, which makes you wonder how many times he's folded his arms in grim defiance of the poor guy a couple cents short, all the while sitting smugly on the donations of previous customers toward that very guy. You know he'd be like that, too. People like this make me so mad. People who are so petty and vindictive, somehow, that they deny people the little penny tray, which is one of the last truly philanthropic social conventions we have going. It drives me crazy, little pencil-necked Goober sitting all high and mighty at the stupid Cumberland Farms, power-tripping on making a woman five years his senior show I.D. for the cigarettes she smokes because of situations exactly like that one, and then power-tripping further on keeping the penny tray nice and fucking neat. And ripping off the next guy who's three cents off. Look, Goober, if you're reading this--people in Iraq are being burned to death and hung from bridges. Transformers are blowing. My cat may be dying, which I know is not your problem, but it sucks regardless. I've already spent $200 on two new tires because of a huge gaping pothole that opened up before me this morning, and the Red Sox are losing. So put the little penny back in the little tray, how about it.