Some people are talented musicians. Yet others can take a crochet needle and some thread and create beautiful things. I have a talent for picking out and choosing the slowest checkout line in any store that I visit.
It doesn’t matter if the line was moving at warp speed when I took my place in it. At some point before my turn comes, someone will cause everything to stall.
If there are only two people in line ahead of me, one of them will do something to halt everything for an indefinite period while the two of us behind her slowly burn in escalating annoyance, not wanting to join some other line at another register, because the moment we do that Annie the Aggravator will speed up, finish her transaction and leave, and we will lose our places in line.
You can’t win.
Most of the checkout line halters are women. That’s because we women are the ones who become obsessive when shopping. Most men prefer to walk into a store, pick stuff out, pay for everything and leave. So if I seem to be shining a bad light on women shoppers, it’s because so many of us deserve it. Men have no right to be smug, though. They have their own set of bad habits.
These people have several different methods for halting checkout lines. Some of them must have been perfecting their techniques for years, even decades.
1. First but not foremost, we have the woman who insists that one of her items is on sale, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. If an expired coupon doesn’t convince the cashier, she will insist that there is a sign over in Aisle 4, way over on the other side of the store, that states that it is on sale. The checker calls over an intercom for a price check. A few long minutes later, a disembodied voice announces that the thing is not on sale. The customer still argues. The manager is called over, and he tells her the same thing. The customer threatens to take her business to a competitor. The manager tells her to go ahead and do that. Those of us waiting behind her in line also encourage her to take this option, with immediately being the preferred time.
2. Speaking of coupons, there is the person who waits until she gets to the head of a checkout line to clip coupons out of a store circular. Unfortunately, taking the damned circular and smothering her with it is illegal.
3. My personal nominee for the Award of Shame is the one who waits until the cashier has begun to ring up her items to decide what she wants to buy. She starts by leaving her things on the counter and going back to the store aisles for “a couple of things she forgot.” She comes back with a small armload of new items. In the meantime, the cashier has rung up all of the things she left on the counter. She then conducts a small bargaining session with the cashier, where she asks questions about half the things she has brought, is shocked by how much some of them cost, and makes up her mind which ones she wants and which ones the cashier has to void. Everyone behind her in line wishes they could void her.
A subset of the Award of Shame category is the one who only has one item to buy, but spends precious minutes out of the lives of everyone around her asking questions about it and deciding to buy it or not. There are not many of these, but they are memorable.
I won’t mention the customer who presents the cashier with two or three maxed-out credit cards until finally finding one that will accept the charge.
In addition to stalling the line, there are other ways to aggravate your fellow customers in a checkout line. These include, but are not limited to:
1. Bringing a baby in a stroller and two restless, screaming toddlers with you. Yes, your fellow checkout line denizens should be compassionate and understanding of your difficulties as a parent, but they won’t be. They just won’t. Trust me.
2. Hitting or nudging people with your shopping cart. I have done this myself, although not on purpose. The person I did it to was not shy about telling me about it. I deserved it. On the other hand, she was guilty of the following:
3. Neglecting to move forward when you are finished paying for your stuff, and blocking the person behind you. If you are looking for love, this is not the way to get it.
4. Letting someone else in line ahead of you without consulting the people behind you. No comment.
I think that covers a lot of it. Please don’t be an Annie the Aggravator. If you are one, please don’t get in line ahead of me.