Friday, December 01, 2006


Today I was making a purchase.
I won’t reveal the name of the store simply because I bought someone’s Christmas present there and I can’t divulge any of my secrets.

As I pulled out my visa card to pay, the man behind the counter smiled at me and said, “How are things at the bank?”
I’m not sure why, but I said, “Fine.” It seems like the neutral response that can never be wrong, even if I wasn’t sure why this man thought I knew how things were at the bank. It occurred to me that he had asked as I’d pulled my credit card from my wallet; maybe he had noticed that it was a TD bank Visa and maybe he went to TD as well. Or maybe he just meant to ask if my finances were good enough to be making such a big purchase? No matter the reason behind his question, FINE seemed like a very ambiguous and yet satisfying answer.

Then, as he was punching away at numbers on the cash register, he said quietly and deliberately, “ten percent discount for a mall employee…”
And I thought, “That’s odd. I don’t work at the mall.”
Then I thought, perhaps he and I were sharing a secret moment in which he just thought I seemed like a nice person and he wanted to give me a discount and this was how he’d do it. (You know like when a former student is working at Subway and they give you a free cookie on Student Discount day as a kind of ironic but sweet gesture because you were their teacher.) It did seem a bit over-played, actually saying the words out loud. Maybe at any moment, he’d wink and I’d know we were sharing a secret joke just-between-us.

A woman in line behind me started up a conversation with me and the man behind the counter. I felt dragged in. And all the while I thought, “In the course of this conversation, I’m going to accidentally give my true identity away and if this man is really convinced I work at the mall, he’ll be embarrassed and feel deceived and I will be REVEALED!” I began to feel panicky and guilty. I had to escape.
I fled.

And when I’d found my shopping partner, Delia, I told her the story. “Why on EARTH would he think you work at the bank?” she asked me. Then suddenly I looked down at the shirt I was wearing. It was a shirt I’d received free for running a half marathon two Septembers ago... the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon.

It all became clear.

The man and I were not sharing a moment.

He’d misunderstood the logo on my shirt. I felt ashamed. Delia picked up my receipt for $87 and examined it while I mulled over the fate of my wicked soul.
“Melissa,” she said, “He only gave you the discount on part of your purchases.”
I leaned over her shoulder, “How much did I save?”


I think I’ll still be able to sleep tonight.

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