While visiting Mama Kat’s blog earlier this week, I came across her Writer’s Workshop and chose to accept the challenge. Of course, the writing prompt I immediately gravitated to was:
4.) Write about something that bothered you this week.
Since I’ve already ranted about violations of the Holiday Decorating Rules earlier this week, I thought I’d take a moment to write about the lady in front of me at the grocery checkout line this past Sunday. I believe you will be able to relate to this story as we’ve all had these type of people in front of us in a line at one time or another.
But first, a little background. My husband has a true gift for picking which line to stand in at checkout lines. He stands back, walks up and down to check out each line, and then makes his selection. If there is a particularly difficult decision — two lines seem to be almost equal in how he thinks they will move — we will identify our “marker person” in the line we are not going to choose. The marker person is the person we would have been had we stayed in that line. We will then compare our progress to the marker person. I can’t tell you how happy he is when we get done before the marker person — it validates his decision-making prowness. And when we don’t beat the marker person, he quickly makes an analysis, computes the variables and files it away in his computer-like brain for next time.
He really has this system down. At our “home base” grocery store (a Wal-Mart), he makes line selection decisions that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. We will often go to a line that is longer than others because of the cashier who is working at it. His stored up database of how this Wal-Mart works allows him to remember that one cashier is lightning fast and the other one is a slowpoke. Me…I probably couldn’t remember your name two minutes after you told me it so I’d never remember the speediness of various Wal-Mart cashiers. The only time he deviates from his finely calibrated decision-making process is when there is “hot girl” cashier. Then all data goes out the window and we get in the hot cashier’s line–regardless of how long or slow it is.
Anyway, this past weekend we went to Wegmans, which is not our regular store and therefore not enough data is available to make a data-based line choice decision. So my husband did a quick scan and picked the shortest line. The lady in front of us was a bit elderly (maybe early 70s) but she only had about 20 items on the belt and the cashier was already starting the order. All the other lines were pretty long so this seemed like the obvious choice.
My husband unloaded our few items (about 15) from the cart and left to cash in our lottery tickets (only $3.00 total…we never win anything larger than $2.00). I was chatting with my son about the candy bars — he was amazed at the size of the King Size Kit Kats — and contemplating buying a Hershey Bar with Almonds for myself when I realized we’d been looking at candy bars for quite some time and nothing seemed to be happening with the order in front of us.
Glancing at the conveyor belt, it seemed like nothing had been bagged. The cashier and lady were deep in some conversation about what type of vegetable was in her produce bag. I kid you not when I say this discussion went on for about two minutes and involved much flipping through the little produce code booklet. The lady kept going on and on about what price she thought she saw and so on. By this time, my husband had returned from the lottery desk, saw what was going on, and flashed me a look saying “What the heck?”
Finally the items in question were identified, counted, scanned, beeped and bagged. “OK,” I thought. “We’ll get going now. She only has about 12 more items to go.”
Five minutes later, only 6 more items were bagged…with each one involving a tortuous discussion, much peering into the bag to see how each item was being packed, and whether or not the price scanned was correct. At this point, I was flashing daggers at the lady with my eyes and giving my husband the look like “Should I move?” He indicated that we should stay…after all, there were only six more measly items.
Take a moment now and count to 250. That is about how long it took for those six item to be scanned and bagged. At this point, I was warning people away from the line (“I can’t tell if the problem is the cashier or the customer or both,” I whispered.) My son was getting antsy, my husband was starting to smolder, and I was really really hungry. To try and help things along, I loudly said to my husband: “Do you think I should move to another line?” I thought perhaps the cashier and lady would be shamed into moving faster.
Finally, after what must have been about 8 minutes or so, the groceries (remember there were only something like 20 items to start with) were bagged and in the lady’s cart. I tensed like a lion ready to pounce. It was almost our turn. The cashier said: “Do you have your shopper’s card?” And the lady starts digging around in her gigantic purse, which was the size of a small child. In my head, I exploded: “What????!!! She didn’t give her shopper’s card yet? Doesn’t she know that is the first thing you do once you begin your transaction.” I myself always have my card in hand and ready to give to the cashier as soon as she is ready to start my order.
Dig, dig, dig through the cavernous bag. Out came all sorts of things — tissues, glasses, cough drops. At this point, I was sighing loudly and rolling my eyes. Come on lady!! Finally she finds the card and hands it to the cashier.
“I just know she is going to pay with a check,” I thought. I hadn’t seen a checkbook but she seemed like the type — the type that doesn’t have the checkbook out and prefilled in before the order is done. Yes, she was definitely a check person.
But I was wrong. She opted for a credit card. But, of course, she had to pull out and analyze about 10 different cards before picking one to use. Then she got all flummoxed by the credit card scanner — how to slide the card, how to sign with the pen, why she had to give her zip code. I’d had it at this point. My frozen items were actually melting on the conveyor belt….little puddles of water forming beneath them.
Finally, she finished up and proceeded to walk about two steps where she pulled out her receipt and started scanning it — blocking everyone else from getting out to the exit door.
In almost no time at all, our order was scanned, bagged and paid for and we started out of the store…passing the lady on our way out.
As soon as we were out of earshot, my husband and I were like “What the f****!” Well, since our 4-year-old was with us, we actually said “What in the world was that lady’s deal?” But the F-bomb was definitely implied!
We got out to the parking lot, loaded our groceries, returned the cart, buckled my son into his car seat, and got ready to pull out and go home. But we couldn’t pull out. Because someone was behind our car. Someone walking veeeeerrrrrrryyyyyy slowly to her own car. The lady from the line. Out of 100s of parking spots, it turns out she had parked right next to us.