I confess I am amused by stupid little things. Eye exams. Grocery store lines. Before a recent ice storm, I went to Kroger. It was packed, as people prepared for another Snowmagedon. Carts in lines 8 deep, all lanes open. Like Christmas Eve, but with no expectations of anything more exciting to open the next day but a bag of chips.
And the chaos and bustle absurdly put me in a really good mood.
I’m not sure I can explain why it did. I think because after a while, there is nothing you can do about the long line anyway, so you might as well enjoy yourself.
My friend KK said she felt a similar feeling when on a rollercoaster. When things were completely out of her control, she could actually relax because there was no burden of decision making.
I got in the wrong checkout line twice. First, the express lane, for which I was disqualified on account of having a surfeit of salsa jars. Then I picked a lane with a big sign that said, “produce scale broken,” but didn’t realize it for 15 minutes. I backed out of that lane, and started chatting with perfect strangers as we played a slow motion game of Cart Tetris.
“There is a celery shortage, did you know that?”
“No, but there is also a cream of chicken soup shortage.”
This old lady and I started exchanging casserole recipes. At the front of the lane I thanked my clerk for her good service until she probably thought there was something wrong with me. Can’t help it—I thought of all the impatient people behind me, and how hours of that must wear on the staff.
I am not so nice to staff on a normal day. I’m not mean, but I don’t thank them profusely. I just do my thing and rush out. Yet being stuck at the checkout lane for 45 minutes made me jolly enough to hum Christmas carols, 3 weeks AFTER Christmas.
I bet the other people in line wanted to punch me.
So you are wondering what checkout lanes have to do with unruly fairy tales? Well, here it comes, where my imagination and too much time standing in line produce DEEP THOUGHTS. I made up this little story in line:
The self-check lane sometimes doesn’t deign to recognize my existence. I hold the barcode up, rotate the can, do a little dance, talk to it. No beep of acknowledgement. Touchscreens sometimes don’t recognize me either – I think when my hands are cold. And those automatic sinks? Forget about it.
But you know, I think it’s turnabout-is-fair-play. What if self-check lanes are taking their vengeance on us for every time we ignore the human staff at live checkout lanes? Like, for every time you go through the checkout on a cell phone, or fail to make eye contact with another live human being, the self-check lane remembers it. And next time through, it treats you like a non-entity, too. It exacts a toll by refusing to ring up your item. You don’t see us, we don’t see you.
This is completely a sci fi piece in the making. REVENGE OF THE CHECKOUT LANES.
The plot will be a little Matrix-like, but resolved when grocery shoppers and scanning machines sign a treaty: the Magna Cart.
What stupid thing has amused you lately?