I happened to stop by a neighborhood one day to drop off some items to a non-profit organization. There was a local market with various vendors stationed around the block. Being that I had a meager breakfast due to my hurry in catching the train that morning, I was already hungry again at noon-ish.
My first instinct upon seeing a market vendor for bread was to make a beeline to check out their wares. I quietly observed from a distance as people selected an item from one of the item display tables before going to the cashier to pay for it. Simple and no fuss. It probably sounds ridiculous, I regularly use this 15-minute observation tactic to determine if it's "safe" to approach. On a milder level, I still felt anxious about interacting with the cashier. But I pushed down the feeling in favor of grabbing some food to sate my growling stomach.
I tentatively walked up and began examining some of the items. Different pies, brownies, cookies, loaves of bread, and other produce and sweets made from grain. I played a bit of pretend here for several minutes. In actuality, within half of a minute I had already settled on a carrot muffin. There were tags on the tables with the item prices but I didn't see one for the muffins. Another dilemma hit me. Oh great, now I have to ask how much it costs. I felt revulsion over that; not only because of anxiety over taking the initiative with a stranger but I have a strange dislike of my own voice.
I continued with my little charade of looking around the tables as if I was still in the process of choosing what to buy. Peeking over at the cashier, I saw she wasn't attending to anyone at the moment. I just decided to go to her then and there. She was glancing down at one of the glass displays when I appeared. I hated feeling the stutter and spike of my own heartbeat. But where there is a will, there is a way. I don't know how I managed to keep it together but I said hi. She echoed the word back at me. I asked how much for the muffin, and she told me I owed her $3.75.
My nerves once again haywire after I opened my coin purse. My anxiety rationalizes things oddly for me. In this instance, I had the persistent thought that I was being an annoying nuisance by paying with only coins since I did not have any $1 bills. I gave her 15 quarters; 4 quarters is $1 each and the extra 3 covered the 75 cents. Expectantly, I waited for her to take the money I placed down on the counter but she glanced at it for a beat and noted that one of my coins was a Canadian one. Another minor jolt of anxiety hit me over my mistake before I replaced the coin with another quarter. She accepted the payment and thanked me for the quarters since she needed them.
I didn't process what she said until after I walked off with my bagged muffin. Her response was exactly the opposite of what my anxiety was so adamantly telling me. It was a relief of how wrong I was about another person. This won't stop me from overthinking the next time I buy a meal but it'll certainly give me something to think back on as proof my fears aren't grounded in reality.
What I learnt from this particular experience:
Cashiers don't really care how you pay. It's part of their job to count money.
Anxiety can go up drastically but it always comes down at some point.
Carrot muffins are friggin' delicious and always worth the trouble.
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