Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

A Line Is Only Long…

I had to run in to the grocery store on the way home from work this afternoon. Typically, I had been there the day before, but had managed to forget to purchase certain important items … so back I went.

Not too crowded in there. I walked in, perused my favorite aisles, fetched the previously neglected items, and made for the checkout lines. There was only just the one person waiting to have her treasures rung up at the first open cash register line that I approached. I thought, score! and there’s a cashier AND a bagger on duty here. So I swung my basket of goodies toward the conveyor belt machine (you know what I’m talking about, even though I can’t fathom what the name of that installation is when the grocery store manager looks it up in the supermarket equipment catalog). Checkout station number 8 was my choice.

Then I saw the sign. A piece of scrap paper was Scotch-taped to the conveyor belt machine:


I shrugged. Okay. I was unlikely to be waiting long, in any case, and I had nothing scheduled for the rest of the day. By this time, the person whom I’d seen waiting – patiently! – was now having her items checked. I plunked my groceries down on the belt, and happily perused the rack of trashy magazines nearby. (Must keep up with what the Kardashians and country singers are doing; also it’s very important to see which celebrities have the worst beach bodies. Kills time and entertains simultaneously. As long as I don’t spend any money on those rags, they’re still silliness, but they’re free.)

The cashier-in-training was ringing up items methodically, occasionally checking with her bagger comrade about number-codes associated with bags of lettuce, bunches of bananas, single cantaloupes, and such. A seasoned cashier would have been slamming through these details with alacrity; but this one was in-training, and was therefore processing a lot of procedures and information in a short amount of time. No sweat. I was not running late.

She was perfectly friendly to her customer, and her customer was mildly friendly back. When it was my turn to be the customer of the moment, I asked her how she was doing, and she replied with unusual composure and humor. I would have expected something like, “–survivin’!”, but I got a complete sentence with a subordinate clause. She asked how I was (which the cashier manual probably says you’re supposed to do). I replied, “good. And I’m the new guy where I work, so my job right now is to not make your life any crazier.” She chuckled, but without desperation.

I glanced back toward the end of the conveyor belt that had alerted me to the cashier’s “in-training-ness” and noticed a woman carrying a similar basket of supermarket treasures. First she spotted the short line, as I had. Then she noted the “cashier-in-training” sign, as I had. But her response to it was different: she exhaled, frustratedly, and audibly. “Pffffff.” I don’t think the cashier heard it, but I did, and saw her shake her head and veer off in search of another checkout station, one with a Seasoned Professional.

Well. Not my place to call after her, to tell her that this cashier was doing fine, and wasn’t going too much slower than a veteran checker. The woman, by going somewhere else, might have saved the cashier-in-training about two minutes of possibly snippy treatment.

With my groceries safely bagged, the cashier thanked me (for paying, probably), and I thanked her back – and the bagger, too, who had double-bagged an item that threatened to leak all over other groceries if tipped the wrong way (and this kind of care in bagging isn’t always taken, either). I picked up the bags full of food and headed toward the exit.

On my way by, I happened to glance at checkout station number four, and saw the woman who had decided that a cashier-in-training was not for her. She was still waiting in line to get to her veteran cashier.

I took no pleasure in it. But somehow, things seemed to have worked out well for … well, not for all involved. But nearly all.


April 10, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments