Monday, February 20, 2012

Questions - Part 1 - Lines

Okay, this week I have a few questions. They're little things that have occurred to me over time, and I think I finally have enough of them to make a blog or two. Or more. Some of them you may have heard put forth before, by other people. I probably have too. Just because I'm stealing them doesn't mean they don't hit me where I live! They aren't questions to which one would expect answers; they are more along the lines of Big Questions of the Universe... but they're not really all that big, since some of them only pertain to me.

Of course, if you do have the answers, or even just one, or even just a theory, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section at the bottom of the post. Who knows? Maybe you'll have something there, an answer you didn't know you had. And I'll actually know someone out there is reading this claptrap.

(I'm all aflutter. I believe this is the first time I've ever used the word claptrap in a sentence!)

On to the questions!

  • Supermarket lines
    • Okay, what's the deal with lines at the supermarket. And I guess I don't mean lines only at the Supermarket, I mean lines at the bank, the pharmacist, the toll plaza, just wherever multiple lines can form and I have to choose the one I want. But I'll use the Supermarket as the example, okay?

      Anyway. I approach the lines, and I stand back a bit. You see, I'm trying to choose my line with care. I don't want to be stuck in the slow line. There isalways a slow line, and I never want to be in it. No one does, I know. Which means all the people forming the lines I have to choose from chose carefully as well. What I'm standing there doing is trying to out-think all of them.

      So I check out the lines.
    • This one over here has an obviously new cashier; she's ringing things tentatively, and every time an item won't scan she has to laboriously look up the UPC code in a book that looks a bit like the Encyclopedia Britannica, except it's laminated. Not picking that one.

    • This one over here is a nice short line, but I see that the next person to be rung up is a guy in a wheelchair who seems to be refusing all help. He's sitting in line, slowly moving items from the basket of his cart to the register belt, one at a time, using some sort of mechanical arm he's controlling by blowing into a straw. The other lines are all building up because no one wants to get in line behind this guy, except for one man who's got the twitchy look of the inveterate gambler who just can't help playing the long odds. Good luck, buddy, I think to the gambler, and I move on.
    • Here we have a promising prospect, at least until you look closely. Again, it's a pretty short line, just two people after the one currently checking out, and the two women who are waiting look like they know whet they're doing. The first one has almost all her stuff out of the cart and on the belt already, and she's got a lot of stuff there. The only way she managed to get that much stuff up there at the same time is that she's got it all set together on the belt like a jigsaw puzzle, with not one bit of the actual belt showing anymore.
      She's either an old Master of the computer game Tetris, and her old powers are resurfacing in this strange way, or she's as obsessive-compulsive as Adrian Monk on amphetamines. Either way, her amazing organizational skills look like a plus until you see the massive stack of coupons she's holding in one hand and the small clam shell change purse in the other. The look in her eye says she's ready and willing to argue over every last one of those coupons, including the one that was issued by the Giant Value that closed down in 1978.
      Even this still looks doable, until I see her talking to the woman behind her, who's cart is packed to the brim and beyond with the same amount of insane precision I already noticed up on the belt. The way they're talking leads me to believe they came shopping together, and the only way someone as anal-retentive as the first woman will go shopping, willingly, with another woman, is if they've found someone just as anal-retentive as themselves to go with.
      It's kind of like when one serial killer meets up with another serial killer, and they hit it off and form one of those serial killing partnerships known as "kill-buddies". Things were bad enough when they were working alone, but now that they're together things are about to hit Hollywood proportions.
      All this runs through my head, and I'm still tempted to slide into line behind them... until the second woman starts slapping the sides of the first woman's face, rhythmically whacking her back and forth while chanting "You can do it! Eye of the tiger, Mary! Eye of the tiger!"
      Holy @#&%.!! That cashier's day is about to get very bad, and I want no part of that! I choose the last line.
    • The last line. The one that just happened to open while I was standing there trying to decide. Oh my God, it's perfect! One guy slips in there in front of me, and all he has is a basket over his forearm with maybe a dozen things in there. My cashier looks all competent, she even brings a bagger with her - I actually get pretty excited, thinking I'm going to just breeze right through this and be on my way!

      Then the cashier finds an item she doesn't know the UPC for. She flips expertly through the laminated book, checking section after section, to no avail. Not to worry, though, the just tosses the small jar of powdered snail or whatever it is to the bagboy and tells him to run and check the price. Which he does, taking off like a shot...
      ...and apparently going straight to the airport where he buys a ticket, makes his way through security, gets himself a seat on a 13 hour non-stop flight to Whogivesacrapistan where he's actually checking the price right there at the factory! He flies back (taking the red-eye) and comes straight to the store with the price, not even taking the time to shave his 18 hours of beard growth.
      The cashier, meanwhile, being a bright spot in my day, has gone on to ring up all the other items from the snail connoisseur's basket, so all she has to do is ring up the price brought to her by the Traveling Man, and we're good to go.
      The powdered snail, or whatever, just happens to be a little more than the guy ahead of me thought. He needs to put in item or two back.
      So he pauses to think.
      To consider.
      To ponder.
      That's when I notice that, rather than cash or a credit card in his hand, he's holding a checkbook.
    • Okay, I'm out of there! I turn about, trying to get away from the register, not even pausing long enough to retrieve my items from the register belt. I don't love them, I don't want them, someone else can have them, all I want is my freedom!
      However, while I was dozing and urinating in a bottle for 18 hours while the Price-Check Kid was doing his thing, a family from Whogivesacrapistan has moved into line behind me, and they have three carts, seventeen kids, and one grandparent so ancient and withered I can't tell if it started out as a man or a woman. I'm hemmed in, and no one seems to speak any English, though all the younger women in the crowd pinning me to the register are arguing in Whogivesacrapistanish about one of the articles in Star Magazine, all shouting and gesticulating wildly. I begin to look around for help, and that's when I see what's going on in the store around me.

      The girl who appeared in the beginning to be new has gone home, and her replacement appears to be trying to set some kind of record, ringing things through so fast she has two baggers working for her and they're still falling behind!

      The Obsessive-Compulsive women of GLOW (the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling) are standing by the exit comparing receipts, probably competing to see who actually saved more and arguing about whether they should be looking at total flat savings or taking the greatest percentage saved from the total. They've reduced three cashiers to tears, causing two of them to quit, and the manager who had to deal with the whole scene is currently missing; he will be found later, in his private office, having hung himself with his own belt to escape from their voices in his head. The note, left on his desk, will say "Please, God, grant me peace! And no Specials! Please! No Specials!"

      The Gambler runs past the women of GLOW, shouting something about "It's all in the system! This is a terrific system! Get me to the racetrack!" Behind him, moving at a more leisurely pace, rolls the wheelchair-bound man. He's actually taken the time to swap out the mechanical hand he was using before for another model, apparently using nothing but his lips and tongue. He rolls by slowly, giving me a good chance to observe him as he blows into that straw again and again. With each blow in the straw, the middle finger of the new hand rises and falls, and the man smiles  as he passes, again and again flipping me a mechanical bird.

      And so I sit there, trapped, wishing that instead of magazines covered with photos of celebrities who have gotten way too skinny, or celebrities who have gained too much weight, or headlines claiming they have proof that the bat-boy they found living in a cave in southern Mexico is actually President Obama's abandoned love child (we have pictures!), that those stupid metal racks by the registers held just one copy of an English-Whogivesacrapistanish dictionary.

      The tears well up, and spill over, and I stand there, a grown man crying and cursing his fate.

      I chose the wrong line again.

      Now, after all that, my question is simply this:

      Why the hell does this always happen to me?!

Alright... looking back, that was quite a ride I just took you on. Sorry about that, but once I started I just couldn't seem to stop. Would you believe I sat down with the basic question, and all that just rolled off the top of my big empty head? Did you stay for the whole thing? Are you still here, or did you bail out about half-way through? I wouldn't blame you if you bailed... but I sure hope you didn't. Remember, oh, way back there when I started this post, when I said I had questions?
 As in plural
As in more than one?
I had intended on asking two, three, or maybe even four questions tonight, but the hell with that. My fingers are tired. And you must be exhausted. If you made it through my rollicking rant, congratulations. I just have one more thing to ask of you.
An answer.
A theory.
A thought.
Oh, Hell, just about any kind of comment will do, just as long as I get some notion that someone (anyone?) actually read all this! I need the encouragement because - now get this - I intend on asking another question tomorrow! Hopefully not such a long one. 
Please, God, not such a long one! (There. I said it for you.)

Talk to you later! 


  1. I think you're shopping at the wrong store. You need to go to one that doesn't host Whogivesacrapistans on Mondays. Or at least try them on Tuesday instead. 0:-)

  2. I have tears in my eyes. This is great! I've been there