At lunch hour

“Whoever’s next I can take you down here,” said the nice young woman who works at the cafe. I walked down to her cash register. “Hi hon, what can I get you.”

“Could I have a tuna salad plate please and…” I placed my order.

“That’s nine seventy, hon,” she said, friendly, but a little too busy to smile.

I paid, left a better tip than usual, and stepped back to wait for my salad. All of a sudden there was a long line. The two women at the cash registers worked as fast as they could.

“I can take the next in line down here,” said the nice young woman.

A man shouldered his way past the people in line. A woman at the head of the line looked at him, and sort of shrugged. She could see his face (I couldn’t) and apparently whatever she saw there made her decide not to challenge him. He was tall, a slight stoop to his broad shoulders, casually dressed but well dressed. He eased over to the register. As the nice woman at the register handed over some change and started to turn to him, he swung a bottle of juice back and forth, and it slipped out of his hand and smashed on the floor. He looked at it for a moment, kept his head down, and walked towards the table where the extra napkins are. But he kept walking past that table, and towards the door, and he slipped out the door with his head down.

Maybe he’s going to the security guard at the entrance to the building, I thought to myself. Maybe he’s going to ask for a mop. But he didn’t come back. The line was still long, and the two women at the cash registers just ignored the puddle of juice and the broken glass for now. Two women were standing waiting for their orders to come out, as I was, and one of them said to the other: “Did you see that? He just walked out!” The other woman shook her head.

“I can take whoever’s next,” said the nice young woman. A man with a grizzled beard and a worn t-shirt walked down towards her register and stepped on a piece of broken glass. “Watch out hon, don’t step on the glass,” said the nice young woman. “What can I get you?”