I noticed a tenner poking out of the self-checkout till and I thought to myself, I’ll be having that away thank you very much and I pulled it from the slot and folded it into my palm.
‘Your cashback is dispensed below,’ the till said, making me dart a look at the disappearing figure of the previous customer. She had caught my attention earlier because she looked like a prostitute but then I realised she was a waitress at a café I never go to, The Pear Tree or some such nursery rhyme name. It does OAP specials and the waitresses wear French maid outfits. I guess that looks okay inside the café serving pie and mash but outside it looks like you’ve been to Ann Summers with your boyfriend.
So I could have shouted ‘Oi!’ but I didn’t, I scanned my items. I was entering my PIN when the French maid spoke to me.
‘Excuse me, did you find a £10 in the machine?’ she said. I crushed the note a little smaller.
‘But I literally just walked away and came back,’ she said, her finger pointing there and back. ‘It was cashback.’
‘No, there was nothing,’ I said, staring hard at her.
So there we stood and it was that moment’s hesitation that brought the assistant over.
‘Everything okay?’ he asked. His badge said Chan, maybe he was Chinese.
‘Not really Chan,’ I said, ‘the thing is the French maid says she left £10 cashback and thinks I’ve taken it.’
‘Oh I see. Did you see the money?’ he asked.
‘No,’ I said, folding my arms to show these people how they were wasting my life.
‘And you forgot the money?’ he asked the girl.
Bless you Chan, I thought, addressing a French maid like she was just another normal customer.
‘Well, I’m very sorry, but if you forgot the money there’s nothing we can do,’ Chan said and to be fair, he did look very sorry. For a micro-moment I would have handed back the cash just to stop Chan looking so sad but then prossie girl started crying, right there amongst the tills.
Chan ushered us sideways, I wanted to help Chan see this through, he looked too vulnerable to cope alone.
But wait, what was he doing? He handed the girl a £10 gift voucher and then took a pack of lemon scented tissues right off the stand and handed those to her too.
Well, Chan, the French maid has touched your heart, I thought, and there was me thinking you weren’t like other men.
We left the shop together. I heard her sniff and a burst of citrus made me roll my eyes.
‘Wasn’t that kind of him?’ she said.
‘Probably the costume,” I muttered.
‘Well, I think I was lucky,’ she said and she held up the voucher and waved it a little.
‘Well, that makes two of us,’ I said and I did the same with her tenner.