Thursday, February 17, 2005

Standing Around With Nothing to Do

Freedom was a frustrating 15 feet away, but it might have well been a mile. We all stared at each other in frustration. The couple next to me started bickering again. The kid in front of them shuffled on his feet, bored out of his mind.

And yet we waited.

I went to a local grocery store tonight; I was doing a little cooking and ran out of a key ingredient, so I ran up to a store that promises more saving for more shopping, or something like that. However, they don't promise quick lines, which is good, because I don't like calling anyone a liar.

After running in and getting my things, I caught a small surprise: the lines at the checkout stretched halfway back into the store. Not good. Fortunately, I had an out - a secret weapon: The underused, misunderstood self-checkout. And a scant ten seconds later, there I stood in the short line. And stood.

And stood.

And stood.

At most stores, the self-checkout is reserved for customers with only 20 or so items. It keeps things moving, especially since you have to bag it yourself and you can't continue without bagging an item. There's also not much in the way of space at the stands. Unfotunately, tonight one of the registers was down, leaving only two.

In self-checkout line one: a tall, dirty man with leathery skin, barely able to stand, trying to buy beer and cigarettes. Behind him, his twin, only with beef jerky and vodka. After him, a woman with a cart so loaded, it looked like it might collapse upon itself, creating a black hole and killing us all - not to mention destroying the earth. Fortunately, the fabric of space/time held. Barely.

In line two, a younger, short woman, buying food for her family. One. Item. At. A. Time. She methodically scanned something, gently bagged it. Searched her cart. Scanned it. Bagged something else. Time stopped behind her. When it looked like she might be finished, she whipped out the coupons. Sweet Jesus.

I finally found my way into a regular line - they opened one. The drunks had moved on - probably for the best, I didn't want to share the road with them anyway - drunks are pretty bad road hogs, you know. And the two women were still checking out. One. Item. At. A. Time.

Makes me want to take up shoplifting.

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