A Matter of Convenience

I’m in a convenience store. I’m standing in a long line. Ahead of me are three boys in soccer uniforms, several construction workers, and one UPS man. I know this sounds like a great opening line for a joke, but it’s not. There are no nuns present.

Anyway, I remember stopping at this store every morning before work when I was on a landscaping crew. Back then, there was a young guy who worked behind the counter named Doug.

Doug was about ten-foot tall and several thousand pounds of muscle. I don’t know how he fit through the door because he was built like a General Electric refrigerator. And he had the tender heart of a Beanie Baby. Doug would never let me pay for my coffee.

“But Doug,” I’d say, “I don’t need free coffee. Let me pay for it.”

“Nah, I always pour out the old coffee every morning, it just goes to waste. Just look at it this way, you’re drinking waste.”

“Doug, please.”

“Your money ain’t no good here.”

I’d keep trying to pay. He’d keep refusing. Round and round we’d go until I finally accepted the coffee. This is a ceremony of sorts among decent people. A ritual dance. Nobody ever accepts free things without protest.

I never knew Doug outsider the store, but after he quit working here I missed seeing him.

For years, I also stopped at another convenience store like this one, on the other side of town. Usually on Sunday mornings. I had to wake up early for church because I helped clean the chapel before service. I was sort of a glorified janitor you could say.

I straightened hymnals, adjusted microphones, and made sure the Baptist choir loft didn’t have any liquor bottles or racy magazines hidden in the tenor section.

An hour before service, I would fly into the convenience store to buy gas, coffee, and a honeybun. One morning I realized I’d forgotten my wallet. The girl behind the counter was pregnant and looked like she was going to pop.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “You can pay next time you’re in here.” Then she reached into her purse and put cash in the drawer. I will never forget this.

I returned later that evening to square up with her. She refused my money. Because like I said, it’s part of the ritual.

So you can imagine how upset I am right now, standing in this line, watching a man chew out the cashier.

The cashier is a young woman—a teenager. She is new, and apparently doesn’t know how to work the register. She is struggling to figure out correct change because the computer is malfunctioning and she’s not very good at math.

She is biting her lip, sort of counting aloud. But this guy is only getting madder. Because it turns out that the cashier accidentally shortchanged him by—get ready for this—eleven cents.

A few people in the store have tried to calm him down, but the man is on a warpath because he claims she’s shortchanged him several previous days too.

Now in the interest of fairness, I’m sure this man has a valid argument. Either that, or he might have a hemorrhoid the size of a grand piano. Whatever his reason, he is acting like a total jerk.

The people in the store are growing tense.

The boys in soccer uniforms whisper among themselves. “What’s wrong with that guy?” They can’t be older than twelve.

Finally, a manager approaches the irate gentleman and asks if he will leave. The man gets huffy, says a swear word, collects his eleven cents, and storms out of the store.

By now the cashier is in tears. She places her face into her hands. She is trying to hold it together, but it’s difficult when someone acts like a horse’s backend.

There is an uncomfortable silence and people in line are looking around at each other trying to figure out what, as onlookers, the right thing for us to do is.

Do we console her? Do we join hands and start singing “Kum Ba Ya” like at church camp? Perhaps a Burt Bacharach song? Do we burn the man’s truck to the ground and string him up by his underpants? There are a lot of options here.

The soccer boys have a better idea.

One boy says to the cashier, “Please don’t cry, ma’am.” Then he extends an unopened ice cream sandwich to the young cashier. “Here,” he says.

The cashier looks at the kids for a moment. Maybe she’s not sure what’s happening. I know I’m not. It’s starting to feel an awfully lot like a TV commercial for Coca-Cola in here.

“Oh, I can’t take that,” the cashier says.


The boys insist. In a few moments the cashier’s face breaks into a smile. She accepts the gift, and even starts laughing a little. Maybe to keep from crying.

The young woman finishes ringing people up. The soccer boys ride away on bicycles. And before I leave the gas station, I glance through the window one last time to look at the cashier. I see her tear open the paper wrapper and eat the ice cream sandwich. She pauses now and then to wipe her wet face.

And I can’t help but wish that old Doug would have been here today.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, be nice.


  1. chip - January 17, 2020 6:29 am

    Yeah, I bet the gentleman with the ‘ tude may have reacted differently if ol’ Doug was working the register… Just sayin’

  2. Sandi. - January 17, 2020 6:32 am

    One fact for certain: Kindness never goes out of style.

  3. Dawn A Bratcher - January 17, 2020 7:09 am

    I love to hear about our good-hearted young people. ❤️👏

  4. GaryD - January 17, 2020 10:22 am

    Whatever you do today, you find someone to be nice to.
    Ludlow Porch

  5. Harriet White - Atlanta - January 17, 2020 12:15 pm

    I own a landscape company and we go to Quick Trip every morning for coffee and gas. I know what you mean Sean, you get to know the people who work there.
    That’s where I’m headed now. Have a great day y’all.

  6. Marilyn - January 17, 2020 12:16 pm

    What a nice story!! Today will be a “nice” day.

  7. Beth Ann Chiles - January 17, 2020 12:16 pm

    It costs nothing to be nice. Well, maybe an ice cream sandwich or a cup of coffee but really –it costs nothing. My motto is yours –just be nice. It changes the world.

  8. Dennis Lowery - January 17, 2020 12:22 pm

    As a very smart man once said, ” There are two kinds of people on earth. There are decent people and indecent people”.

  9. Allison Cobb Gilmore - January 17, 2020 1:18 pm

    Sean is kinda like the “elf on the shelf” for adults all year round and not just leading up to Christmas. I’m thinking that maybe a lesson in this post could be to always be nice to people just in case Sean is watching.    If Sean writes about you, you want to be like the kid who gave the cashier his ice cream sandwich, not like the jerk who made her cry over his 11 cents.   So when I’m out among people and have a chance to be nice or be a jerk, I’m gonna ask myself, “What would Sean write about me?”  And I’m gonna try to be nicer even when I’m pretty sure that Sean is not watching!

  10. Jan - January 17, 2020 1:42 pm


  11. Connie Havard Ryland - January 17, 2020 1:55 pm

    There is no reason to be mean. Ever.

  12. Keloth Anne - January 17, 2020 2:01 pm

    Oh if everyone would just be kind, nice and understanding…what a wonderful world it would be🥰🥰
    Thank you for always finding good and reminding us!!! You make our world so much better ❤️❤️

  13. Mary M Berryman - January 17, 2020 2:31 pm

    You never know what burden someone is carrying. Be nice…the rewards YOU reap will be infinitesimal!

  14. Shelton A. - January 17, 2020 2:44 pm

    Sometimes kids really do say the right thing at just the right time. Way to go guys…God bless you young’uns. Thanks Sean.

  15. David Brown - January 17, 2020 3:31 pm

    Your statement” “This is a ceremony of sorts among decent people. A ritual dance. Nobody ever accepts free things without protest” is so true and yet also so profound in this day-and-age! I appreciate you confirming my thoughts that I am more than just a racist, selfish, red neck!

  16. Ala Red Clay Girl - January 17, 2020 4:10 pm

    Being nice is really just treating others as you would want to be treated.

  17. Linda Moon - January 17, 2020 4:47 pm

    Jokes without nuns are a little less potent, but nicer and more respectful. So, on Sunday mornings did you check the alto section, too? (…..I’m just wondering and reminiscing…..). I think most of the choir members, including altos, might have consoled the cashier along with some of those hidden items that could’ve made her feel better, too. Your story of kindness is making me feel better right now. You packed a punch, even without nun jokes. I’ll be nicer today, thanks to you and Doug!!

  18. Jean - January 17, 2020 5:10 pm


  19. that's jack - January 17, 2020 7:30 pm

    Yep, there are niece folk around and a few asses.
    good read, I enjoyed it.
    Sherry & jack

  20. Joe Patterson - January 17, 2020 11:23 pm

    Amen brother

  21. B. - January 18, 2020 6:16 am

    I am a c store manager and unbelievable how many jerks you get when they come in. Like you said it takes nothing to be nice. Some of those irate customers just don’t understand people are doing their job.

  22. Dru - January 19, 2020 2:32 am

    That boy is special. Never underestimate the comforting power of ice cream or boys who have been taught right.

  23. Dru - January 19, 2020 2:35 am

    Never underestimate the power of ice cream—or of boys who have been raised right.

  24. Esteban - January 27, 2020 3:52 pm

    A Catholic priest, a rabbi, and an Episcopalian bishop bishop walk into a bar. The bartender asks them, “Is this gonna be a joke?” Sorry, just being silly. “Be nice”–words to live by.

  25. Gladys R. Harris - February 23, 2020 6:26 am

    Sean I have these smiles ! Awh.. Dru is right, never underestimate the comforting power of ice cream especially from boys taught right❤️
    Thank you Sean.

  26. Gail - February 23, 2020 3:28 pm

    I feel sad for the young cashier, but what a troubled heart the irate man must have. Being kind should be easy, but for people who are wrapped up in their problems, it is nearly impossible. I hope this man learns how to be kind, then his problems won’t be so big.

  27. Steve Winfield (Gus) - February 24, 2020 12:12 am

    I’ve owned a “C” store. You sure do deal with a variety of folks. 11¢ guy could be on his way to a friends funeral. Or to commit a murder. You never know. Just smile & get him out the door.
    These days I stop at one daily. Always say, “Thank you maam. Have a nice day.” Often add a, “God bless you.”
    Be the one that makes them smile. They get plenty that don’t.


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