Don’t Make a Scene!

CartAs the Blizzard of the Century howled its way across the Dakotas, everyone in Southern Minnesota scrambled for The Big Box Store to stock up.

By the time we got there, the checkout lines were backed up all the way to the meat counter.

After a long agonizing shuffle across the store, only one couple stood between us and the parking lot.

He kept a sharp eye on the cashier’s monitor while she bagged the groceries.

The cashier worked as fast as she could.  Paddling with both hands, she deftly twisted each item across the scanner until it emitted a reassuring beep then with an effortless back-stroke, sent it spinning into the bagging area.

Grab, twist, beep, spin.

Grab, twist, beep, spin.

Grab, twist, beep, spin.


“HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!” The guy’s voice cracked like a gunshot.

His wife looked up, mortified. “Don’t make a scene,” she hissed.

“THAT IS NOT CORRECT,” he shouted, rattling a bony finger at the monitor.

His wife ducked behind a bale of toilet paper.

His voice quivered with outrage. “You’re trying to screw us…..”

“Hiram,” she cut him off, “You’re making a SCENE!!”

The cashier pleaded with him to be reasonable. It was after all only a matter of pennies and a blizzard was coming – but Hiram stood his ground.

Perhaps fearing a riot, the cashier leaned into a small microphone mounted on her register and whispered ever so softly – but her amplified voice boomed throughout the store.


A groan rose up from Fresh Produce and rippled all the way back to the dairy case.

Outside the Big Box Store, the blizzard of the century howled into the parking lot. Inside, all activity stopped so everyone could stare at Hiram.

Now there is something you must understand about our region. In Minnesota, traffic backs up on our freeways whenever a car gets a flat, lectures go silent whenever a student drops a pencil and all activity ceases whenever someone sneezes. When something stops here, everything stops. We do this so we can all stare at whoever it was who made a scene.


Hiram had made a scene but he also touched a nerve by standing up for himself and couples who hadn’t bickered for years found themselves glaring at each other as old tensions wormed their way to the surface.

They asked each other which is worse: to let The Big Box Store walk all over you or to risk making an ass of yourself? It is the kind of question that few marriages can handle gracefully.

Finally, a lone voice called out, “What’s yer item?”

“TUCKS,” Hiram yelled to the abject horror of his wife.

“What’s the price on TUCKS?” the voice called back toward the pharmacy section.

Another voice relayed the question and soon a cacophony of calls returned the shelf price.

Hiram had been dead-on accurate. The register price did not match the shelf press. Half the crowd felt vindicated as the other half, in empathy with Hiram’s wife, felt mortified.

Then things got ugly.

People started thinking….. What if The Big Box Store was exploiting the regional aversion to making a scene? What if they were deliberately displaying the wrong price and counting on people to not stand up for themselves?

All eyes turned toward the manager’s office.

After a few moments, a young woman in an official Big Box Store vest sheepishly trotted to the register and with the magic twist of the price override key, resumed the flow of commerce.

Later in the parking lot, my wife and I continued to explore the vein of discord begun at the register. I loathe making a scene about as much as she enjoys taking a stand.

We spun our tires, both figuratively and literally, across the lot as we rehashed an argument as old as our marriage.

We were not alone.

Ahead of us, a long line of couples, silhouetted by the flash of brake-lights, faced-off, gesturing and bickering until they faded, one by one, into the white of the oncoming blizzard.

Author: Almost Iowa

47 thoughts on “Don’t Make a Scene!”

  1. Some people get rich by squabbling over pennies –not saying this is true in Hiram’s case, though. Years ago, a NY landlord alerted me to the fact that I had underpaid my rent by 2 cents, and insisted that I send him a check in that amount — no joke.

  2. Our marriage has a perfectly tuned and quite lovely -so far- accord with discord.

    My husband likes to never cause a scene so we don’t–unless I get the “go” signal. 🙂 He can tell when I’m about to burst and he’s usually incensed as well. He however, possesses the restrain to choose the time and place…with a huge blizzard bearing down on us he’d have spared all concerned but…when it’s a serious overcharge or the wrong food-I get the “wink”. I always start off sweet and sincere but firm in my expectations…

  3. I guess it’s my Aspie logic. I don’t get it. I don’t see Hiram as comical or picayune. I see those who look at him as such as comical and illogical. I don’t get how they don’t see how common this overcharging is and how more Hirams speaking up would end it overnight.

    1. Keep in mind, a blizzard was coming. In this part of the country, we have blizzard gates on the freeway entrances. When the weather gets bad, the highway patrol lowers and locks the gates. On the state highways, snowplows block the roads. In other words, holding up the line over a few pennies in the face of a blizzard – is causing a scene.

      1. Your tale made this clear but my illogical Hiram-like picayunity focussed on the trivial. Sigh. Ah well–at least I don’t wait until after the price is rung up to start fishing for a coin purse and start pulling out nickels one by one.

        Hey, wait a minute there, buddy: Youse guys live with this white stuff. What is anyone doing out in blizzard conditions, shopping? I was born in Chicago and went to school near Syracuse, and I know better than that! (Snowshoeing off in a huff.)

        1. Blizzards come off the Great Plains, so we know when they are coming. There is usually plenty of time to scramble for The Big Box Store and get home in time – unless someone makes a scene. 🙂

    1. He did. People around here are flabbergasted when a merchant in Chicago or New York refuses their check.

      Last year, when I bought a tractor, I told the dealer I’d would return later in the week with a check. He told me to take the tractor and drop by with the check whenever it was convenient for me. That is the way business is done around here. People know who to trust and who not to trust.

    2. Checks??!! It’s getting to the point that you don’t even have to take your credit card out of your wallet to fast pay.

      1. RFID chips are designed to do just that. They emit a short-range radio signal that allows the check-out register to read your credit card. They also allow anyone walking by with an RFID reader to do the same. 🙂

  4. Excellent as always – you sure know where the human nerves reside !! In my family it was BOTH Mom and Dad who didn’t want to ‘make a scene’. Boy was that a repressive way to grow up; I still have trouble asserting myself – especially in those spontaneous moments when you can’t even rehearse ahead of time.

    This triggers some posting ideas …

  5. Any guy named Hiram has reasons for his behavior. He is getting even for all the joshing he took in high school…and junior high school…and elementary school…and kindergarten….and the maternity ward…and waiting for ten months to be born. I would say that it’s about time he had his day in the sun.

  6. Great food for thought! No wonder I check my receipt before leaving the store! A few pennies here and there to the good of a supermarket! No way! Good that Hiram didn’t have a handful of coupons to stop the line longer! Christine

    1. Conspiracy theory implies the companies would be organized enough for such a scheme. I agree it would be clever & consumers would rarely notice. Most likely just good old-fashioned incompetence is more likely.

        1. Conspiracy implies intelligent. Are you saying that organizations are just smart enough to know they are incompetent?

  7. Exploiting our meekness, a new conspiracy theory! “All eyes turned toward the manager’s office.” Your stories generally make me smile but that line actually made me laugh out loud.

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