PONCA CITY, Okla. — Marcotte’s Market Grocery cashier Russell Lum took out all of his anger and stress on the mundane task of busting open a fresh roll of quarters in response to the drudgery of working retail paired with the new headaches brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You just fucking smack it right here, like this,” Lum said, holding up a $10 roll of coins before violently striking them against a divider in the till with all his strength. “Just WHA-BOOM! It’s like the perfect coin — chunky enough to get a good crack in between them, and easy as fuck to count when you’re done since it’s just remembering to group things by fours.”
Dan Duran, Marcotte’s front end manager and Lum’s direct supervisor, knows all too well what small victories like giving a roll of coins a good fucking whack can mean to a beleaguered clerk.
“Oh, trust me, that few seconds of micro-aggression you can take out right in the customer’s stupid fucking face without any sort of recourse is vital for my team’s morale,” Duran said. “You should’ve seen it when corporate had us switch to those plastic, shrink-wrapped coin rolls a few months back… I thought I was gonna have a cashier revolt on my hands. Those are a bitch and a half to get open, and when they finally do it’s terribly anticlimactic.”
Dr. Marge Luby, a clinical psychologist, claimed the act of “giving the ol’ one-two” to a paper-wrapped stack of coins is similar to the practice of “break therapy” popularized by “rage rooms” that allow patients to take out their frustrations physically.
“Studies have shown that the clatter of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters when broken open over the plastic divider of a cash register triggers the same synapses in the brain as shattering the screen of a TV does, or a passionate embrace from a loved one,” Dr. Luby said. “But with fewer people using cash now, those small moments of release are getting rarer for our nation’s cashiers. Many have been forced to look to other opportunities to get their aggression out, like stabbing a fresh stack of plastic bags onto one of those metal holder things, and informing a customer that there isn’t any more of a specific product ‘in the back.’”
Lum was last seen cursing under his breath after being forced to open a fresh roll of pennies five minutes before the end of his shift.
Photo by Jamie Ward.