First Come The Bananas

Anker Fanoe

© Copyright 2018 by Anker Fanoe

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

A tale chronicling the average experience of a customer service employee. 

First come the bananas.

The yellow rack of fruit moves slowly down the belt, undeterred by the overhead loop of Toto’s Africa. Bruised, soft and mushy: clearly, last choice on the shelf. Behind it follows a large navel orange, and behind the navel orange an avocado.

94237. 94012. 4225. Real rookie stuff. I punch in the codes.

Next up, common grocery. Canned tuna. Chocolate chip cookies. Condoms. Easily scannable but boring.

Do you need bags today?” I ask the old lady


Oh, no no. I brought my own.” She pulls the bags from her purse.

I continue to scan, punch in codes, scan, punch in codes. Uh oh. Turmeric.

I search my complacent memory to find the code, but, alas, nothing comes of it; surely I made a note of it in my notebook. I pull the blue covered, torn-to-shreds pack of paper from my apron but here too I find only disappointment. The lady’s patience begins to wane.

What is going on?” She asks.

I can’t remember the code for turmeric, it’s just going to be a second.”

Well could you please try your best to hurry?”

Of course.”

As a last resort, I pull out the guidebook. Ah. 94918.

Sorry about that. Would you like to deduct or donate the bags today?”

How much is the donation?”

I point to her bags and look her in the eye. “5 cents. If you bring in your own bags, you can either deduct 5 cents from your bill or donate the 5 cents.”

Well, who are you donating to?”

The Scotts Valley Educational Foundation.”

She furrows her eyebrows with a scowl. “Oh, Jesus. Doesn’t our government spend enough on education as it is? Why do I pay all of these god damned taxes? No, hell no.” She shakes her head.

Okay. Your total is--“

Honestly, if the schools need that much money why don’t you ask your CEO to pocket some of his change? That should be more than enough. The rest of us can’t afford such things. For christ’s sake.”

I stare at the monitor and sigh. “Your total is $74.23.”

She hands over the cash and leaves without saying another word.

From the register I can see the sunset as it falls beneath the eucalyptus trees and tiled buildings. Already 8:30 at night. All I can look forward to is going home. Going home to my partner who laughs at every one of my stupid jokes. Going home to my jigsaw puzzle and my TV. Going home to silence. Going home.

This time of the night, things are real slow. For a brief moment, I forget about why I am even here. What am I doing here? Suddenly, I have an anxiety attack. Decayed thoughts tumble in my head until I am found deep within myself, lost beneath the surface of my own self-conscience. Daily routines eat away at my happiness, bullied by doubts and senseless purpose. When my boss calls for my name, I snap out of it.

Where are your work shoes?”

Oh, yeah… I’m sorry. I left them in my girlfriends car, so I had no choice but to throw these on.” I explain to her as we stare down at my white, dirtied Adidas.

Okay. Well make sure you bring those next time.”


I wipe sweat from my forehead as she walks away. How could I have forgotten about the work shoes?

Damn, you awful, horrible person. How could you have forgotten your work shoes?” A voice from behind me sounds. It’s Jake, one of my favorite coworkers.

I guess I’m just the absolute worst.” I say grinning.

How late are you here until?”

Close. What about you?”

Yep, same here.” He remarks with disappointment.

Silence pervades the front of the store, dripping with the distilled scents of the meat and bakery departments. Assorted flowers from Mother’s Day are wilting just outside of the automatic doors.

Hey Jake.” I say as I turn around.


Did you see the latest episode of Game of Thrones?”

Oh man.” He responds. “Ridiculous.”


Once again, silence. Populating the grocery store are brand new advertisements displaying the new technological advancements put in place for use in conjunction with shopping. I wonder to myself how long we have to be cashiers within human history. Soon enough, there will surely be A.I. to handle all of this. Maybe it’s for the best; I question whether or not people are supposed to live like this. Whether or not we are supposed to be pent up in this place for hours on end. Whether or not we are supposed to be yelled at for simply existing, a punching bag for all of the other frustrated people that step into our lines each and every day.

I guess I would like to think that people are capable of being nice to one another. I would like to think it possible to live in a world where balance wins the day. I remember of all the times a friendly, giving customer has come through the store; all of the interesting, fascinating characters that have graciously donated anything they could and have showed genuine interest not only in themselves but in who I am as well: that I am not only one of the faceless, one of one million grocery store cashiers. I have a life, a background and a personality. Each and every day I stand here for eight hours or more to make ends meet, but I go to a home and I come from a home in which I pursue other interests, hobbies and experiences. As I stood there, I questioned: is this all worth it?

Then, seemingly coming out of nowhere, another comes up to the belt. The cart is completely full: filled to the brim with rotisserie chickens, hard liquor, delectable grains, granolas, goats’ cheese, grapes, and various other items most of us could never afford. The man begins to place his things upon the never-ending scroll.

First come the bananas.

Anker Fanoe is a sophomore at UC Santa Cruz. He is a cashier at Whole Foods Market and enjoys spending time with his partner Maddie in Santa Cruz while reading, writing, and watching film

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