There you stand: you have two items in your hands. The express lane is closed and there are three people ahead of you. None of them have a full, wheeled basket, so maybe this won’t take too long but here’s what happens.
The first in line, a sweet-looking little old lady (SLOL) is standing there with her purse resting on the counter. Her hands are clasped on top of the purse and she has a neighborly smile.
“That’s a total of thirty-three, sixty-four,” the cashier says.
“How much?” SLOL says. “Thirty-three, sixty-four,” the cashier says again.
After digging in her briefcase-size purse, she looks up with a smile.
“Oh, let me see. I have two twenties here,” SLOL says.
She hands the cashier the two twenties and, before the cashier can ring up the sale, stops the action.
“I think I have the correct change, please wait.”
The cashier stands with the two twenties in her hand, waiting. So is everyone else in the line.
The SLOL now opens her little pink change purse and starts digging, looking for change.
“Oh, I guess I don’t have the correct change. All I have is three quarters. If I give them to you can you apply that against… what did you say it was? Sixty-four cents?
” “Yes, M’am. I can do that,” the cashier says.
The cashier hands the SLOL $7.11 and waits while the woman turns the bills so that they are all facing the same way and reopens her already-closed coin purse to deposit the eleven cents.
Meanwhile, I’m standing there with a cold half-gallon of milk and a loaf of bread. One hand is getting cold and I’m trying not to crush the bread—waiting for the next patron to check out.
The cashier, aided by modern technology, swipes two six-packs of beer for the man. He stands, waiting for his total.
“Eleven, eighty-eight,” the cashier says.
The man pulls his wallet from the rear pocket of his jeans and hands the cashier a hundred-dollar bill.
She stares, at first, seeming confused then finds a special pen to drag across the face of the greenback. After it doesn’t show up as counterfeit, she hands him his change.
He’s been holding his wallet open, waiting for his change. The cashier hands him his $88.12 by placing the cash on his open palm and the receipt and coins on top.
He has to put the billfold down; separate the receipt from the change and put the coins in a pocket. He then throws the paper back on the counter and puts the cash in his billfold. Finally, he grabs his Bud and leaves.
The woman in front of me has been reading one of those supermarket tabloids. The lead story was, “Has the Ghost of Princess Di Been Captured by Space Aliens?” The woman’s cart was half-full. When the cashier has tallied all the items, she announces what shows clearly on the computer screen.
“The total is $114.56, M’am,” the cashier says. The customer turns back and puts the tabloid back in the rack. “How much?” the customer says? The cashier repeats the total.
The customer then opens her purse and begins a search. After my left hand, holding the milk, is almost frostbitten, she finds a checkbook. The process of writing a check is, of course, long and arduous. Once she hands the check to the cashier for processing, she begins the subtraction from her check log.
By this time, three other customers have lined up behind me. There are a couple of not-so-nice comments filtering through the tense air.
“Didn’t she know how she was going to pay before she even got in line?”
“Is she having trouble spelling the grocery store’s name?”
I gratefully shift the cold—or now maybe not-so-cold—milk to the counter and slide my bank card.
“Debit or credit,” the cashier says.
“Debit.” I say.
By the time I get my purchases and head for the car, the severe weather that caused me to shop for the classic essentials has arrived. I’m drenched by the time I get to the car.
Shopping is an adventure.