9 to 5 Poetry Project, Poem 7: Nostalgia At Register 5

Today, for once, was a nice, restful day. So restful, in fact, that it barely felt like work at all. Consequently, it was easier to mull over what to write about today. Without any preamble, I bring you Poem 7!

Nostalgia at Register 5

Three new hires huddle around one register,
Their frightened, attentive faces fixed alternately
On the screen and our coordinator’s face.
Something in those wide eyes, trying to consume
Infinite minute details, crammed into three hours.

Watching them, I feel ancient—for me, it’s all habit.
I can roll a greeting off the tongue, take a return
Without blinking, and spot a false one with ease.
But once, I was in their place.
I stood behind registers that have been replaced,
In a TJ Maxx thirty minutes down the road.
Terrified that anyone would let me handle $100 bills,
Give change—though the register does the math,
I was convinced I’d screw it up.

And so are they. I can see it in their 16-year old faces.
All three remind me of a 17-year-old me,
But perhaps less timid, less likely to burst
Into tears during their first full shift.
Going on five years later, I’m told to “keep an eye”
On a first transaction. Though he towers above me,
His mistakes are, momentarily, in my hands.
And I wonder what I would have felt at 17,
If someone told me I’d still be standing here
Four and a half years later, passing the baton.

Note: This poem was sparked by the strange feeling I always get watching somebody else get register trained. It’s only when I think about the numbers that I realize how long ago that happened for me, and I always get nostalgic about all of my firsts. And this poem is basically just about that. For clarity, I got register trained at a different location than I work at currently, and the registers have since been replaced.

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