I went to the local gift shop at lunch today to buy bus tickets. I used my last one this morning and like the ~10% discount I have over paying cash for my fare. That, and the fares are such that I rarely have exact change so I round up and end up paying a 10% premium on my fare.
So I went to the shop. They were out. Maybe tomorrow. Okay, worst case, I can break the twenty so that my $4.50 fare doesn't cost me $20.
Nope. Won't open the till without a sale.
After work, I walked to a bigger pharmacy / quick mart for bus tickets. Everyone told me the store carried them. Great! They are four blocks out of my way, no big deal, and I need the steps.
Except it is pouring rain. And I didn't bring a jacket. Fine. Worth getting wet to save $15. I tromp off and am duly soaked.
I arrive and hop in line. Eventually I arrive at the cashier. She looks bored. "No, only [she rattles off two stores each four blocks farther away than where I want to be]. They have them."
"Okay. Can you break a twenty?"
"No. I can't open the drawer."
Today has not been the best of days. I'm about three more frustrations away from bursting into tears. "Okay," I say. "Can you help me? What do you suggest I do? What is the cheapest thing you can sell me? Can you sell me something for a dime?"
She looked around. "I can sell you a bag for a nickel."
"Great! Could I have one bag, please?"
"Yes." And she rings up one plastic bag, of which I have no intention of taking with me.
I hand her a $20 bill. She types in 0.05 as received cash, and the drawer pops open. "Whoops!" She says, and slams the drawer shut.
"Don't shut the drawer!" I exclaim. "I just want change!"
"But I'm not allowed to give out too many coins."
"I don't want any coins. I want the five that you have in your hand. Here, I have a nickel, too." I fished out the nickel.
She put all of the money back in the drawer, and hands me a twenty.
Now I do want to cry.
"Can I have change for the twenty?"
"Oh! Yes." And hands me 4 fives, instead of the ten and two fives she had previously.
At this point, I just want to leave. I fear my voice has been loud, in a space where everyone is quiet and soft-spoken. I am near tears. I am cold and wet and, well, let's be honest, somewhat hungry. I just want out of there with change for the bus. Please?
So, I took the bills, declined the receipt, possibly unintentionally rudely, and left, into the pouring rain, feeling miserable.
As I walked out of the store and turned left, a homeless guy (according to his sign) was sitting under the store's eaves. I pulled the bills back out of my pocket, took one, shoved the rest back into my pocket, and handed the guy the five.
I don't know how his day was going. I hope that five helped him find a dry place to sleep tonight. If nothing else, maybe he'll go back into that store and buy something, putting the five back into the till that was so difficult to get it out of.