In a convenience store coincidentally wedged between Naranjito and Barranquitas.
Here I am again. Scanning average products for average people who probably listen to shit music and all they do in life is consume welfare checks and have kids. It’s a slow day for business today and it allows me to study the patrons. Do they not see what’s wrong with their lives? When did they stop trying? Everyone is so predictable. Like this lady with the terrible hair and tattooed eyebrows.
“Will that be all, ma’am?” She nods and hands me her card. Cooperativa de Ahorros Fuentes. Ugh. She probably spends most of her time cooking, cleaning, and speaking really loudly into her phone. I bet she has four kids (the oldest halfway through middle school) and is most likely not married. I roll my eyes when she looks away. As I wait for the dial-up I look at my next customer. His face is covered in soot and his fingernails are rimmed with what I can only assume is grease. A mechanic, no doubt. He’s on the phone (a shiny smartphone that contrasts magnificently with the rest of him) waiting for the call to come through but it doesn’t. There’s a small moment of silence where the music I had playing (My Way by Frank Sinatra) is heard notably. The lady smiles at me (her teeth are filthy) but Mr. Soot over here frowns and searches for the source of the music with distaste.
Oh. That does it.
If there is one thing that absolutely triggers me is people who have a problem with good music. And Sinatra is good music. Anyone who doesn’t like his songs is uncultured and probably very stupid. And boy was I about to lay some truth on him. In my defense, I was just very crabby that day.
I thank the lady and hand her back her card along with her receipts and turn my attention to Mr. Soot. “Okay. Let me explain something, mediocre person.” I say as I scan and bag the items he just placed on the counter with as much sass and as much Listen-up-lil-bitch courage I can muster. “You know what this music is? It’s art. Okay? Not that you would know because you probably think the lyrics in Bryant Meyer’s songs are goals. Well, they’re not.” I look down at the items and scoff. “Why are you buying these…” I gesture at the products with disgust, struggling to find proper euphemisms but failing. “This velón, this Vicks, and this pack of Manteca de ubre?” I eyeball him. “Why are you even in this convenience store? Why do you need these? What are you DOING with your life? Why do you look like you live under a car? Did you EVEN go to college or are you filthy stinkin’ rich? If not then WHERE did your mother go wrong? Why are you in this life if you’re not going to or looking to be great? Why don’t you ever think of searching for something meaningful to do with your life? Don’t you want more out of life? Like, maybe a job that doesn’t make you black with filth, a nice home that doesn’t look like it belongs in a Puertorican history book in a place that isn’t in the buttcrack of a jungle, and maybe, JUST maybe, some education? Some general knowledge? Some WORLD in you? Do you even SPEAK a second language? You probably can’t even enjoy movies at the theater properly because you don’t understand the jokes and can’t be bothered to read subtitles. You probably only watch popular movies YEARS later when they premiere on Wapa on a weekend. YOU PROBABLY VOTED FOR ROSELLO. Do you EVEN know what Aleppo is? No, I’m not talking about the cheap dog food brand. You probably think Russia is a continent. No, guy, Russia is not a continent. Russia is a European country. Yeah, that’s right. EU.RO.PE.AN. READ a goddamn book. THIS SONG is called My Way, by Frank Sinatra and it’s a damn great song by a damn great legend. Not that you would know! Strive to be a better version of yourself. Your life is short. It’s but a mere blip in the grand scheme of things AND HERE YOU ARE TODAY, buying these MEDIOCRE PRODUCTS, LIVING A MEDIOCRE LIFE with a LOWER-THAN-AVERAGE KNOWLEDGE. WHY are you wasting your LIFE? Your time?! Answer me honestly, is what you’re doing today REALLY worth it? Does it make you absolutely happy? Is this Vicks, this Manteca de Ubre and this velón all going towards a better state of wellbeing for yourself? HUH?”
He stands there, shocked by my words. Many seconds go by, still stunned by my candor. I could get in so much trouble for this but it would be worth it. I could have potentially changed the course of this man’s life! Maybe today he decides to go back to school, get a degree, become an engineer. Maybe he’ll get an award and in his speech, he’ll say it all started because of an honest cashier who told it like it is. Maybe he decides to learn a new craft or do fulfilling volunteer work! As the anticipation grows I see a million emotions flit through his face. Finally, he looks at me soberly and asks
“Well, what are you doing here, working this mediocre job?”
I nod as my face flushes with shame, and quietly finish running up his items and scanning his card. “Thank you sir, have a nice day.” I mutter and he goes on his merry way.
Later that shift, he comes back with a clean face, wearing a nice watch, and crisp clean clothes. “You know,” he says “I thought about what you said and I decided that you are somewhat right. I should always pursue what really matters.” He smiles and points at the wall of items behind the counter. “A pack of condoms, please.”