The Express Lane in the grocery store. You know of it, right, the Express Lane? It’s for fast transactions, 15 items or less transactions, use-your-brain-we’re-not-smashing-rocket-scientists-here transactions.
And yet, the shopper in front of me seemed perplexed, as if this well-lit building with shelves of food and magical conveyor belts represented an alien world.
The shopper started off okay enough. She placed her 13 items on the belt. Not 12, not 14. She had 13 (yes, I’m anal, yes, I counted. Yes, it’s a little oCd on my part. I’m okay with that. Because I’m not the one who acts crazy for the rest of the story).
“Ma’am,” the clerk said, “Do you have a savors card with us?”
“What?” the woman asked.
“A savors card. You know a card with the name of our store on it that will qualify you for discounts and sale prices,” the clerk answered slowly, not caring, really, because he got paid by the hour regardless if he were talking to a magazine rack or shoving cans of Alpo into a bag.
“Oh, yes. I do,” the woman answered.
Mexican stand-off. I looked at the clerk. The clerk looked at the woman. The woman looked at a freckle on the back of her hand.
“Um, ma’am,” the clerk broke in eventually. “Can I have your card?”
“Oh oh oh, yes,” the woman said while starting to wonder to herself in a if-I-had-a-purse-where-would-it-be? kind of way.
Three minutes and twenty-two seconds later, the shopper from Hell found the card that she had cleverly hidden in something caller a wallet.
Quickly, Todd (I had been standing in line long enough to read Todd’s name badge. I also memorized his employee identification number– U3050789TPJ/O–and I spotted at least 3 moles on his arm that, in my opinion, merited the attention of a dermatologist) scanned the thirteen groceries and announced the total owed.
Again, the shopper from another world seemed perplexed, the most basic concept of a market economy beyond her reach. I waited for five more minutes for her to process what needed to happen next which involved opening her purse, removing her checkbook, closing her purse, opening her purse, retrieving a pen, closing her purse, opening her purse, producing a photo ID….You get the picture.
I know what you’re thinking, and no, this woman was not a day over 50 so it wasn’t an age issue, either young and flighty or old and unable to fly. And the State of Illinois does not require folks with mental disorders to wear signs.
I’m just going to say it: I was a little pissy about the whole thing. I came to the store to fill a quick prescription, my head felt like it was going to explode all over aisles 11 through 18, and Todd made me more irritated by not sharing my frustration and urgency.
In less than a minute, Todd scanned my 4 items, announced the total, and handed me a receipt inside a small bag. That’s the way the pros do it.
I walked briskly to the exit and headed to my car. Parked next to me in the lot, I saw Shopper from Hades. She had her purse open, and I imagined that she just recalled that her car required some sort of key to gain entry. I flashed to the store and my irritation with her. And then for whatever reason, I felt a little bad for my evil thoughts about her. True, she couldn’t know that at one point inside the store I fantasized about running her over with my cart. But I still felt a little bad.
When she finally got her trunk opened, I offered to help her. She had four 12-packs of cola on the bottom of her cart. It took me less than a minute to load her cola, return her shopping cart, and smile at her while I entered my own car.
Helping her was my way of saying, “Sorry if you saw a less-than-thrilled look on my face earlier.” It may also have been an acknowledgment that if any man were to find my daughter or mom being a little spacey, I would want that guy to show some charity and kindness to the women I love. And maybe it was just a spontaneous way of letting her know “Yeah, you’re a little crazy. But I am, too. So who am I to judge?”
So the next “idiot” you see, what are you going to do?
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I will remember this story and smile.