Like most chain supermarkets, our local Safeway has a loyalty program, which it enforces by making its discounts available only to its loyalty members. Naturally, I’m too lazy to sign up, and I’m definitely too lazy to carry a loyalty card in my wallet all the time on the off chance that I’ll need to go to Safeway.

So instead at the cash register I use the “I forgot my card” approach, whereby I input the phone number associated with my loyalty account. Since I don’t actually have an account, I simply use the old landline number of our apartment. (We disconnected it several years ago.) Luckily, whoever lived in the apartment before us (this is pre-2000 or so) must have had an account, because the phone number is valid in the system.

The funny part is that the name of the account member is printed out on the receipt, and the cashiers seem to be required to acknowledge the account owner by name at the end of the transaction: “Have a good evening, [glances at receipt] _____________.” So every time I buy something at Safeway, the cashier experiences a moment of visible cognitive dissonance as he or she glances down at the receipt, sees the name “Steig Johnson” — for that’s who it is — looks back up at me, a very clearly Indian dude whose name is very clearly NOT Steig Johnson, swallows, and plows ahead, wishing me, Mr. Johnson, a good night. I smile and give the cashier my most Nordic nod.

Of course, in the modern age, finding the real Steig Johnson is no challenge; after a stint in Berkeley, he’s now an Assistant Professor of Primatology at the University of Calgary. Cheers to you, Steig, for providing me with a decade of discounts.

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