I walked into the break room. Dave was already in there.
I was going to hide the near-empty clamshell pack of sugar cookies in the cupboard. There were only 3 left out of the dozen. I consider Dave a friend, so I offered him one. He declined.
“It’s slim pickings out there,” I said. “This is the last.”
I was making the case that bakery sweets were in short supply, and he might really wanna reconsider.
“Wouldn’t want to steal your pleasure,” he said.
He saw the sticker. He knew the pleasure. Dave humors me well. He knows I’m a cheapskate. He knows how before this thing, it was my routine – a hobby, almost – maybe even a compulsion – to raid my grocery for marked down baked goods late at night, after work. And he knows how, with all the changes, my grocery’s no longer open that late.
My store used to tag their nearly-expired groceries as “Manager’s Special” with these obnoxiously bold and bright red and yellow stickers. A while back, they changed the sticker. The colors are still the same as before, but it’s no longer “Manager’s Special.” Now it’s, “Woohoo! Great Deal.”
“Now the store’s closed at night,” I told Dave. “It’s really fucked up my Woohoo! game.”
“You got Woohoo! game?” he asked.
“Used to be flushed with it,” I said. “Used to have extra Woohoo! pies stuffed in my freezer. Now I got nothing.”
“You gotta go during the day,” Dave said.
“Problem is I don’t need anything most days. I don’t need Woohoo! pies and cakes, but I want them.”
“So you gotta go more often.”
Dave’s a friend, but this is a crisis. We can’t be thinking of only ourselves, so I felt the duty to scold him.
“We’re supposed to be limiting our trips to the grocery, not going in there to window shop or otherwise fuck around.”
“They’ll never know,” Dave said.
“They got security. They got cameras,” I said. “They probably got facial recognition, like China.”
Dave’s a mild conspiracy guy. Like I said, I consider him a friend, so I try humoring him in return for his. And Chinese surveillance and the reasons for it are a common topic.
“Wear your mask,” he said. “Wear it in the store.”
Our virus masks were dangling around our necks so we could talk. Our hospital makes us wear them.
“The same mask? Every day? They’ll catch on,” I said.
Ours were custom made by a fellow employee. As custom made, we both only had one.
“Then you need an assortment of masks,” he said. “Not just one. You need several, like shirts.”
That seemed like a helluva plan – some real solid advice.
I put my last 3 cookies up in the cupboard and thanked Dave for the tip.
“Those croutons still up there?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Don’t think anybody’s touched them.”
The top shelf of that cupboard had been my private hoarding spot for months. It was the place I stored my cans of peanuts, bags of croutons, cookies, etc. Then one day I came in, and somebody was pouring some of my croutons into a cup to snack on. I was shocked, but I’m a cuck. Plus, it was somebody I was otherwise friendly with up to that point, so I didn’t give her a hassle. Later I realized she’d seen me getting at those croutons before. She knew they were mine and I caught her red-handed and she still played it off like it was nothing.
I’d gotten pissed about the croutons, so I took a partial bag and poured a dozen little packs of Splenda in it. I shook up the bag, put it back in the cupboard and waited. That was gonna be my revenge. I told Dave about it. He said I should have used salt. I said I’d thought about it, but it seemed a little too cruel. He said basically, “Fuck the crouton thief. She deserves salt or even worse.” Like I said, I consider Dave a friend, and he humors me well. Still, I hadn’t asked what his “even worse” might have been.
I jammed the package of cookies on the top shelf, above the sack of croutons.
“They’ll be up there if you decide otherwise,” I told Dave.
“The croutons or the cookies?” he asked.
“They’re both up there. And the offer stands for either one. But I wouldn’t recommend the croutons.”
I realize it was petty at the time and maybe even more petty now, in a time of pandemic, to still be seeking such a trifling revenge. I mean, nobody wants a mouthful of super-sweet, faux-sugared croutons in the middle of a pandemic. It’s sorta cruel on top of all the other anxieties. But I still want my justice. I was butthurt then, so much that I turned my petty revenge into a matter of principle. Plus, if I’m totally honest, it’s like a third of a bag of sugar-coated croutons up there that I don’t want to go to waste. I want their cost to go toward something, and revenge, even in a time of panic and alarm, still seems like a pretty good something.
“Okay,” Dave said. “I’ll think about it. And I hope things will get better.”
I walked out of the break room, unsure if he meant the whole of the pandemic or just my Woohoo! game getting better. Maybe he meant both. Who knows. Like I said, I consider him a friend, so I might ask later.