Last Thursday night I was standing in line to pay at the Dominick’s near Sheridan and Foster. In front of me was a couple who must have been in their 70s, waiting with a few groceries. After the cashier rang their total, they handed her a handful of food stamps. The cashier looked at the loose one-dollar stamps and refused to take them. “They have to be in their booklets,” she said to the puzzled couple. “You have to rip them out in front of me.” “But that’s all we have. We don’t have any money,” they pleaded. “I’m sorry. It’s the store’s policy,” she said. They continued to plead; she remained immovable.
As I was getting angry at the cashier, not to mention impatient with the delay, a young man dressed in a gray suit and tie and carrying a bag of groceries approached the couple from the adjacent cash register. “Then how do you explain this?” he said to the cashier, waving loose food stamps in his hand, presumably the change from his recent purchase. “One-dollar stamps are all right but not five dollars,” she responded. “But I’ve paid with loose stamps before,” he added. “Sir, I’m just doing my job,” she replied. “If you’re doing your job, do it right. That’s not what you told these folks,” he snapped back. “Besides, this isn’t going to hurt the owners of Dominick’s; they are millionaires. We are just working people trying to survive.” Then he meticulously ripped a five-dollar stamp out of his booklet and handed it to the cashier. “Let’s trade,” he said to the couple, who were looking more and more confused.
At that moment another cashier intervened. “Sir, that’s not really any of your business,” he said. “Humanity is my business,” he replied. “Who are you anyway? A priest?” asked the second cashier. “No,” said the young man, “I’m a communist.” And he walked out of the store, disappearing into the parking lot.
Recently I visited a friend who lives on the outskirts of Antioch. One afternoon we went for a walk around her subdivision, admiring the abundant Queen Anne’s lace growing along the roads and watching the sun glint off the nearby lake, which was visible now and again between old white frame houses. We passed a home with lots of well-tended marigolds and begonias massed around the front porch. Next to the door was one of those black lawn jockey figures.
“Wow,” I said to my friend, “I can’t believe anybody would put one of those things out on their porch.”
“Maybe the sign explains it,” she said, pointing to one of the trees flanking the driveway. Nailed to the tree was an old metal sign that read, “Welcome to Bridgeport.”