Tales from the Rite Aid: Pennies from Hell || Mike Esposito

When people say “that was the grossest thing I’ve ever seen in my life” or “He/she was the most disgusting person” they are usually being hyperbolic.  But some unfortunate souls get to actually experience the most disgusting human they will encounter.  A few years back, I became one of those people.

Working as a cashier at a chain store isn’t the worst experience.  Like all retail it has its moments of unpleasantness; you’ll get your fair share of rude old women who yell at you  over exfoliating face wash or drunken buffoons singing to a can of cashews, but at the end of the day, it is a clean and honest way to make a living.  I believed this, until one cold winter night several years ago.

A woman came into my store holding a big plastic cup.

“Hmmm.  That’s odd” I thought to myself, but went on my way.

This creature shopped for a while and then waddled her way to the counter. Her hair was a bird’s nest.  She sported a sweater with stains on it.  The rolled-up sleeves revealed open wounds on her forearms.  She flung a few items at me and opened her dirty, cavernous mouth.

“How much?”

I rang up the items, “That’ll be $3.50 for these.”

She lifted her cup up—it was from Mohegan Sun—the kind that people carry their gambling money around with.  She emptied the cup a bit and a cascade of pennies flew out like blood from the elevator doors in The Shining.  Pennies.  All pennies.  Not a quarter in sight.  Hell, I would have settled for a few dimes.

“Count it,” she barked.

I count out 350 pennies. The customer, supposedly, is always right.  Once I’d finished counting, she hobbled down an aisle again, leaving me alone with her mound of copper.  Minutes later she came back with another item and tossed it at me.

I begrudgingly scanned it and told her it would cost another three dollars.

The Mohegan Sun cup, which seemed to hold an infinite amount of change, tipped over again, spilling pennies all over my counter.

“Count it!”  She sounded angrier this time.

A line formed behind her. I hunched to count out 300 more pennies—a task that takes more time than you might expect. Doing so, I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye.  The customer was leaning on the counter and stretching her legs out.  My counting slowed to a halt, paralyzed by the display of calisthenics occurring while I counted her dirty, dirty pennies.

I find pennies in general to be vile, but these pennies were in their own league.  They were all sticky and I didn’t want to know why.  Then, I found one with hairs stuck to it.  I fought the nausea, and as I did, she pushed her gut up against the counter, leaned in close, opened her mouth wide, and coughed on me.

I looked up at her and screamed “Ew!”

I have never had an adult cough on me purposefully before or since.

After, she leaned back, stuck her arms out, and started to shimmy, forward and backwards. It felt like a fever dream.

I watched my manager creep out from an aisle.

“Thank god, some back up,” I thought.

But my manager took one look at Cup Woman, shot a nasty stink face at her, and retreated back to the aisle. I’d been abandoned.

I finished counting the pile of pennies and handed this monstrosity her receipt.  She snatched it from my hand, looked at me one last time to revel in the look of defeat on my face, and walked out like nothing happened.  I never saw her again.


Mike Esposito is a senior at CCSU majoring in English and minoring in Cinema Studies.


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