I got a shopping cart, filled it with the cartons of bottles from my trunk and back seat, and went to the room with the recycling machines. It was just me and a homeless-looking guy who had two large trash bags full of cans and plastic bottles.
As I put the bottles in the slot, the machine spit out a bunch of receipts, which eventually added up to $7.50. I then went into the store to spend them on three boxes of Swiss Miss hot chocolate. I got to the checkout and handed the cashier, a plump, pleasant-faced young black man, the receipts.
He ran the receipts through a machine, then said, "Your total is 17 cents."
I had thought the receipts would cover it, but I guess I hadn't taken tax into account. I pulled out a dollar bill. But the cashier must have interpreted my surprised look as panic, because he said, "That's okay," and extracted a quarter from his pocket.
I asked, "Wait a sec -- that's your money?"
"You were just going to give me the 17 cents?"
He nodded again.
"Here, then this is yours," I said, handing him the bill. "One good turn deserves another."
He took another look at me and said, "No, that's okay."
I finally realized what had been going through his mind. I said, "Please, take it, it's okay, I don't return cans for a living. I was just getting rid of empties we had around the house."
As I left the store, I looked down at my shirt and saw that it had two holes in it. (I've never been of the opinion that a shirt should be thrown out when 99% of its material is still intact.)
When I took my mask off outside, I was reminded that I hadn't shaved that morning.
I also take pride in looking younger than 66. But maybe I just look like a ravaged 50-year-old. My "habit" is exercise, not meth. But the long term effect of both is the same: the fat disappears.
In retrospect, I wish I'd given that cashier more; a dollar is a considerably smaller percentage of my net worth than 17 cents is of his. But it all happened so quickly I didn't really have time to think. Next week I'm going by that Stop & Shop again. If I see him, I'm going to give him a twenty.
It's the least he deserves for his good deed.
As for the insult, I suppose I'll have to let that pass.