My mom often tells this story from our childhood:
She was at the register paying for the items in her cart. She watched as the cashier unknowingly swept several toys over the scanner without making contact. There was no telltale ‘beep’. My mom stood silently as the cashier bagged the toys. My mom knew she hadn’t paid for those toys, but she didn’t say a word. Times were tight, I suppose. It was the cashier’s mistake, after all. My mom grabbed her bags, told the cashier to have a nice day, and brought the toys home.
When the phone rang later that evening, my mom shouldn’t have been surprised. It was karma calling. Well, it was actually my father calling from jail but it was karma all the same. I can’t recall what he was in trouble for – a bar fight, maybe, or drinking and driving – but whenever my mom tells this story it always begins with her watching the cashier sweep those toys past the scanner. According to my mom, the moral of the story is clear: be honest, always. The universe has a way of giving you your comeuppance.
I have heard this story many times. I have repeated it to my husband. I will tell it to my own children when they are older. This story is the reason I always remind the cashier at the grocery store to scan the pop on the bottom of my cart if she forgets to look. It is the reason I corrected the cashier at the home improvement store when she thought we only had two pieces of Plexiglas since I knew we had four. This story is part of who I am.
Late Friday afternoon I was in the parking lot loading my bags into the back of my car when I saw the can of Pledge in the cart. The can of Pledge wasn’t bagged. It was standing upright in the corner of the cart, tucked in behind the child seat. I must have missed it when I was unloading my items in the checkout line. I glanced at my receipt. Shoot, I didn’t pay for the Pledge. I thought briefly of my mom’s story. I swear I did. But I also thought it was late and I was hungry and my girls had already been at daycare longer than I wanted. I did not want to walk back into the store and wait in line again. I hesitated for a moment and then quickly threw the Pledge in one of my bags and drove out of the parking lot. Surely, one little can of Pledge wasn’t going to matter.
I had forgotten all about the can of Pledge as I drifted off to sleep later that evening. But when my husband shook me awake during the middle of the night to give me some very bad news, I quickly remembered.
The universe has a way of giving you your comeuppance.