I am typically the most patient shopper you will ever see at a supermarket. I try not to hurry people who pause (as they always do) in front of the one item in the aisle I am looking for. When there’s a near collision in the aisles I always smile, apologize, make a joke. At the checkout counter it is always my aim a) to not make the cashier’s day any worse, b) elicit a smile from the cashier and, if possible, c) get the cashier to laugh just a little.
I never complain if the line seems to move slowly – the line I’m in ALWAYS is the slowest, that’s just part of being me. I try to “possess my soul in patience,” as the Bible says (or words to that effect) If the person ahead of me is taking longer than seems reasonable, I’m sure I’ll get the same attention from the cashier when it’s my turn – whether I want it or not. Life’s short.
So when I say I did NOT strike the woman ahead of me, you may assume there was some provocation.
I was in a time crunch because I had to get Max’s car back to him so he could go take a final at college, and Winn-Dixie did not have an item I needed (power steering fluid. His car was moaning like a dieter in the candy aisle) so I would have to make another stop.
There were two registers open. One had a line – the person being checked out and three people behind her. I pulled into the other line, where I was next in line after the woman whose groceries were almost all rung up. You’d have done the same thing, although experience has shown me that that’s almost always a trap. Still I played the odds – and lost.
The woman – a perfectly coiffed, perfectly made up “Southern Lady” of about my age – was standing and flipping slowly through something on her phone. There was a muted discussion going on with the cashier (who I’m sure doesn’t get paid enough.) I finally figured out the Southern Lady was looking for an online coupon she had seen somewhere. Then she put the phone away and the two of them started flipping through the store’s coupon brochure.
It took a few minutes but they finally found what the Southern Lady was looking for. The cashier pointed out that it did not apply to the product the Southern Lady was trying to buy.
She had already been at the register for some time when I pulled in behind her. All her groceries were rung up and bagged. What I witnessed had taken at least 10 minutes. I finally couldn’t help myself. I literally have NEVER done this in a supermarket, but I spoke up.
“Excuse me, but some time today, please?” (Note the “excuse me” and the “please.”)
The Southern Lady turned toward me, her head swiveling like a lizard’s.
“Did you say something?”
My eyes widened as I repeated myself, “Sometime TODAY please.”
It would not be fair to suggest I shouted, although my voice had taken on a sharper edge. One of the three shoppers in line behind me snickered.
The Southern Lady didn’t smile, didn’t acknowledge that perhaps this had taken longer than was completely reasonable. She didn’t even blink. She just slowly oscillated away from me and resumed flicking through the online coupons.
It was another five minutes before the Southern Lady found what she was looking for, displayed it triumphantly to the cashier. The cashier showed her why that wasn’t the product she was trying to buy.
OK, I admit that at any time I could have returned my groceries to the cart, pushed my way back through the people lined up behind me, and gone to the other register. It would have been a pain in the ass, but I could have done it. But I just kept thinking, “This has got to be over soon, doesn’t it?” And long experience told me that if I went to the other register – where shoppers were sailing through like stock cars at Daytona – it would have come to a shrieking halt and the lane I was in would have sped up the moment I left it.
As near as I could figure, the Southern Lady was trying to save 50 cents on a jar of mayonnaise. This had all taken about 20 minutes – 3 times 20 is 60 minutes, 3 times 50 cents is a buck fifty. The Southern Lady had apparently decided her time was worth $1.50 an hour.
The mayonnaise was removed from the bag, rescanned to deduct it from the total, and set aside.
The Southern Lady paid for her remaining groceries and put them in her cart.
Then she oscillated back towards me and – with no trace of an expression on her perfectly made-up face, with the deadest eyes I’ve ever seen and the coldest voice I’ve ever heard – said:
“God bless you, sir.”
THAT’S when I thought about hitting her. I didn’t of course, I never would. But man! I could picture it.