At The Supermarket

People waiting in line with shopping baskets at grocery store

At the supermarket I had bought rather more items than I thought could easily fit in the small cloth grocery bag I had brought with me. I said to the checker, “I probably should have brought two bags, but if you can get them all in this one, I will be impressed.”

“Are you sure it won’t be too heavy for you?”

The only surer sign that you are showing your age would be having some young person offer to help you cross the street.

“I’m sure I can handle it, but if I get a heart attack, I know a good lawyer. I’ll sue Save-On-Foods and give you a cut.”

She smiled, “Well, in that case, I accept the challenge.” She said. She got them all in quite skillfully, and I was impressed. Then she said,

“Are you walking, sir?”

“No, I have my car.”

“Do you want to put the bag in a cart and wheel it to your car?”

It had obviously dawned on her that if I did have a heart attack, she could be held responsible for putting too many groceries in one bag and my offer to cut her in on the proceeds of a law suit would be meaningless. Also, the heart attack could be fatal, and there wouldn’t be any law suit. Seeing the alarm in her eyes, I was sorely tempted to fake a heart attack or at least start clutching my chest as I lifted the bag and walked out.

“No, seriously, It’s fine,:  I said, and I walked away doing my best to show no strain carrying the rather heavy bag.

On another occasion I had bought just a few small items and was asked by the checker if I wanted carry-out help. That time I didn’t attribute it to my looking decrepit and assumed it was just a kind of reflex like saying “Have a nice day.” On the other hand, driving home it did occur to me that alien body snatchers were gradually taking over, and that particular body snatcher didn’t know how much stuff an Earthling could carry. There are other signs of an invasion. Why do people staffing service call centres invariably have unidentifiable accents?

But checkers in supermarkets have hard jobs, and I am almost always impressed by how cheerful they are. I am also impressed by their ability to remember hundreds of numerical codes.

Checkers also have to worry about an insidious sting operation. I have a friend who is a smoking by law enforcement officer. That might not be the exact title, but what he does is take kids under the legal smoking age of 19 around to grocery stores and supermarkets to try to buy cigarettes. Some of them could pass for 19. The checkers are supposed to ask for ID if they suspect a customer is underage. If they don’t, they get a warning, and if it happens a second time, the store is fined. My friend tells me that it isn’t the mom and pop stores that are the biggest violators, but the big supermarkets. And it makes sense. At very busy times, checkers are under a lot of pressure and taking time to ID some lanky youth who wants a pack of Camels is probably an easy thing to forget.

The poor checker who was worried about me having a heart attack on the way to my car could easily have been distracted enough to slip up and get caught selling cigarettes to a minor. I have to be more compassionate.

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