A young man is shopping in a supermarket when he notices that an older woman seems to be following him, staring at him in a sorrowful manner. He moves to the next aisle, trying to avoid her, but she follows, still staring. And when he finishes shopping, he ends up behind her in a long checkout line. Her grocery basket is full to overflowing; his contains just a few items.
She keeps staring at him sadly, making him feel most uncomfortable. Finally she speaks up. "Pardon my staring," she says, "but you look exactly like my son, who died just two weeks ago." And she begins to sniffle as she repeats her claim that the young man perfectly resembles her late, beloved son. "I mean, exactly like him," she moans.
As the cashier bags her groceries at the front of the line, the woman asks: "As a favor to a grief-stricken mother, would you mind saying ‘Goodbye, Mom’ to me as I leave? Somehow, it would make me feel so much better."
The young man gulps and agrees to her request. She gives him a tearful smile, waves and picks up her three heavy bags. "Goodbye, Mom!" he says, waving back. All the scene needs now to make it a perfect melodrama is violins welling up in the background — or maybe a little supermarket Muzak.
The young man, reflecting on his good deed, feels such a warm glow of self-satisfaction that he barely notices the cashier ringing up his own few purchases. Until, that is, the cashier tells him that the bill comes to $110.
"There must be a mistake," the young man says, pointing at his single small bag.
"Your mother said you’d be paying for hers too," the cashier says.