Waiting at Supermarket’s Check-out Line

Worse thing than waiting in lines? Floating around selecting things to buy.

By John Addyman

Grocery check outI don’t like waiting in line.

My wife and I have different philosophies when we go into a store.

She goes to shop.

I go to buy.

There’s a huge difference.

My sweet wife approaches a store and all its goods like a honeybee comes onto a field of flowers — she has to float above things for awhile, settle on one thing or another, then decide to get down to work and grab some pollen. This can take a long time. A very long time.

I, on the other hand, channel my inner wolf. I get into the store, walk to the place where the goods are, pick out what I need, and zip to the cashier. I am ready to leave, ready to take my goods home and use them in proper modern man fashion. I have accomplished my purpose. No floating. No surveying the flowers. Grab. Buy. Go.

This is the way shopping is meant to be. Why else would supermarkets put stuff on the edges of shelves? The people who run supermarkets want to make it extra easy for you to grab and go. I like that.

But the problem comes when it’s time to check out.

Like any reasonable male, I like to zoom into a short line where other like-minded members of my gender have queued up, and fire past the cashier, just as my brothers have done before me. I’m always a little half-surprised, half-disappointed that we who have thusly streaked through the line don’t meet outside for a group high-five, having accomplished our deed in record fashion.

Unfortunately, all of this rarely happens.

That’s because certain people tend to populate the check-out lines in front of me.

First, there’s the person who shouldn’t be in my check-out lane in the first place. I’m in the lane that says “Seven items or fewer.” I have one item. The person in front of me is unloading a full cart.

And here, please forgive me, I tend to be a little demonstrative.

“One,” I count as the first item gets pulled out of the cart.

“Two,” I say as the second lands on the conveyer belt.

“Three,” and so on. When we get to “eight” my voice tends to get a little higher, a little louder. Normally, I get ignored. Heard, mind you — but ignored. Sometimes, the person in front will turn to me and say, “Sorry, I’m in a hurry.” This of course means that the person knows he or she is in the wrong lane, but what he or she is doing is more important than what you’re doing, no matter what the “rules” or societal conventions are. And invariably, if they turn around and keep unpacking and I keep counting, they finally turn to me and say, “You’re being rude.”

I’m the one being inconvenienced, but because I don’t grin and bear it, I’m rude.

Second, there’s the person who has to pull the right change, to the penny, out of a purse or pocketbook or deep jeans pockets. Years ago, this was a quick exchange because most of us learned how to make and count change. Not today, folks. The younger the person trying to make correct change, the longer the process is likely to take. If the young person can’t pull out the phone and fire up the calculator to figure out what pieces of change make what amount, we’re in for a long night at the checkout lines.

A lot of young people get around this, of course, by always handing over bills or a debit card, but not always. A corollary to number two is the people who write checks at the grocery store. Why do people write checks at the grocery store?

My sweet wife approaches a store and all its goods like a honeybee comes onto a field of flowers — she has to float above things for awhile, settle on one thing or another, then decide what to buy. I, on the other hand, channel my inner wolf. I get into the store, walk to the place where the goods are, pick out what I need, and zip to the cashier’

There’s always some kind of interrogation that accompanies the check-writing — “Is your license number on the check? Do you want cash back? Do you have photo ID? Are you a known felon? Were you conscious when you got those tattoos on your eyelids?”

Grocery checkout lineThird, there’s the person who has to talk on their phone while they’re in line with you. You didn’t want to, but you hear about Phoebe’s psoriasis, the mold brother Eugene has growing behind his ears, what granddad’s girlfriend told the sheriff’s deputies when she ran over the cow, and directions on how to unclog a very messy toilet. Been there, heard that.

I can understand the necessity of some conversations in public because of emergencies, but why do they have to be carried on loud enough for the people in the parking lot to hear them?

Last, there are some people in line ahead of me I enjoy. For example, I love kids who are being carried on Mom’s or Dad’s shoulder, and they’re looking behind mom or dad — at me.

This is entertainment waiting to happen. I make faces. I bob and weave. I wink and smile. I put my thumb on my nose and wave my fingers. Pretty soon, the kid and I are communicating. Sometimes I even get a laugh. If I get enough laughs, mom or dad will turn around to see what’s going on behind them.

“I’m a granddad,” I say, smiling proudly. That explains everything. Mom or Dad turns back around, and the entertainment continues. In times like that, I don’t care how long the line takes. I’m having fun.

I just hope the people in front of me with the terrific kid aren’t going to make exact change or pay with a check.

 

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