Supermarket Checkout Lines (Or why there are disgruntled people.)

By Joe Gerardi

The other night I was at Kroger's picking up several items. Really. Several. 6 to be exact, so I got in the "15 items or less" checkout lane. Now, this article is not going where you think it is. There was no one ahead of me with 4,212 items. It is about people IN the express lanes. I can deal with the idiots and their ignorance of getting into the express lane with 4,212 items and defying me to challenge them. I do. I just glare at them and when they see me glaring, I glance at the "15 items or less" and then back at them. They, in trying to stave off the inevitable, generally say something like "Yes, I CAN read." to which I reply: "I know you can read. I wonder if you can COUNT!" It's not those troglodytes that I wish to discuss. It's the people that take 45 minutes to PAY for the 3 items they are trying to purchase.

This case it was a middle aged woman. She was dressed very nicely, and was in the process of paying when I got into the line. There was only one person ahead of me, and he had four items, so I thought I might escape the typical scenarios. Yeah, RIGHT! This lady was searching through her purse, and as she would stumble across a bill, she would hand it to the cashier. Then she would search, discover some other form of legal tender, and hand it to the cashier, without ever looking up. Search, hand it over. Search, hand it over. This went on for several minutes.

Finally, she takes her wallet out of the bag. She opens the change compartment and I swear to you, scoops out everything in there and hands it to the cashier to count out while she continues to search, hand it over. Search, hand it over.

After several minutes without the "hand it over" part, she looks to the cashier and says: "I'm going to have to write a check." The cashier hands back all the money, which she quickly stuffs back in the wallet, puts the wallet back in her purse, and out comes the checkbook, and she then proceeds to write the check. There are now 5 or 6 people on line behind me, all there in the mistaken belief that we can get out of here before we qualify for Social Security.

The check is finally written, and handed over to the cashier, who is distracted, because the rest of the Kroger staff is throwing her a party because she's been given 2 raises in the time it takes this customer to pay. The cashier asks for the driver's license, and the customer now starts looking for her wallet which she placed back in her purse. Wallet discovered, we all now know that it's only going to take her an average work week to FIND her license. One of the people behind me gets out of line and heads back to the Dairy dept. because the milk she was trying to buy has now expired.

Well, through some strange misoccurrence, everything is paid for and the lady obliviously totters off. We all breathe a sigh of relief, and move forward, though one gentleman has to get out of line because the veal he wanted has now matured into an aged Black Angus steak.

The person ahead of me has his 4 items scanned, and the bill comes to $4.87. He hands the cashier 2-1 dollar bills, and then proceeds to start digging through his pants for change, and then begins to count it one coin at a time. In the meantime, the cashier is given another party for celebrating her 20th anniversary with the company. When I first got into the line, I thought she was about 19 or so. I thought it was nice of the Customer Service staff to bring 1 of the 11 people behind me a wheelchair, sit them down in it and remove the roller blades the little tyke came in on.

Finally, this gentleman gets his bill paid. MYT TURN!!!! I quickly grab my credit card, select "Credit" on the terminal, and swipe my card. I turn back smugly, knowing that I'm not going to be one of those people that slow things down, see the relief on the faces of the people, and proceed to watch the cashier scan my items.

The milk I bought had the UPC sticker smeared. Oh, God, she's gotta call for a price check! She puts the milk down in front of her, calls and asks. They'll call her right back. She continues. We're cruising now! she places the 3 plum tomatoes on the scale, punches in the code, and continues to go. I look at the screen. 3 tomatoes: $12.33. $12.33?? I look down. She has the half gallon of milk sitting on the scale. I mention this to her. She looks up. She looks confused. One customer gets out of line to go buy hair color because she has visibly greyed during this time. The cashier removes the milk. She puts the 3 tomatoes back on the scale. For some incomprehensible reson to her, she can't void that item. I casually mention to her: "Put the milk BACK on the scale and try again." She does. It works, but all her button pressing has screwed something else up. She calls the supervisor. The faces of the customers behind me fall.

The supervisor comes over, puts in her magic god key that allow her to change to Omnipresent modes for all to be fixed. She removes the offensive key strokes and leaves. The tomatoes are scanned again, this time ringing up at $1.67. The Dairy dept. calls and gives the price on the milk. We're cooking now. All 6 items are scanned, the cashier hits the total key...


She tries again as breath is held by all in line. EMTs come and remove the body of one person who has died of old age while waiting...


The cashier looks around, and noticed that the supervisor had left the register in the Omnipresent mode. We have to call the supervisor over with her magic god key again to put it back in Peon mode. Customer Service starts handing canes out to the people in line to aid in standing. A plant one customer had is taken away and prepared to be shipped to the petrified forest.

The key is delievered with an almost religious reverence. It is placed in the keyway, the turn is made. The cashier reaches for the "Total" key. Everyone leans forward in anticipation, though one chap keels over and keeps going. The EMTs start delivering oxygen to the people that can't handle the stress...

It works! I tell the cashier that I selected "Credit," raising my voice, for she's now obviously become hard of hearing at her advanced age, and she again hits the right button. The little slip comes out. I sign it. She turns to bag my groceries...

No bags. No paper, no plastic,  NO FRIGGIN' BAGS AT ALL! One person gets out of line to start shopping again for he has eaten all the groceries he selected, just to survive.

The cashier looks to the lane next to me, sees bags there and asks: "Paper or plastic?"

"Plastic. They're easier to suffocate myself with." I say. (And to HELL with ending a sentence with a preposition.)

She bags. I leave, and am happy to see that the Kroger staff is readying the cashier for her retirement party for all her years of faithful service.

As I get to the parking lot, wondering what year it is, who's President, if any of my kids grew up, got married, and made something of themselves, I realize that if I can survive that without shooting someone, I will NEVER be able to develop road rage, and maybe, just maybe I should go to work for the Post Office to make it a better, safer place.

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