The Checkout Line

One of the remarkable talents of life is being able to reliably choose the checkout line that will get you through the fastest and with the least amount of frustration.  I do not have this gift.  Despite pausing to make a considered choice each time I approach the checkout, I invariably choose the one with the trainee, the person who needs a price check or to purchase cigarettes or a gift card or a giraffe.  You get my drift.

Anyway, this particular day I had 3 year old Noah with me and I picked what seemed to be a reasonably quick line.  The lady in front of us had an alarming quantity of small items…and the sourest expression I have seen in a long time.  It was clear she was irritated and the vibe she radiated was not designed to make anyone near her break into “Kumbaya” strains.  The poor checkout girl was meekly subdued by this woman’s uninviting demeanour.  She snatched things out of bags already packed by the checkout girl and repacked them.  When asked,”Do you want these in bags?” as the girl held up a large pack of paper towel she snapped,”Yes, EVERYTHING in bags.”  She even reached over impatiently and tried to loosen the next set of plastic bags ready to receive shopping items, only upsetting the rack and causing things to take even longer.  I was definitely wishing we’d picked another line as I tried to entertain Noah and prevent him climbing onto the register or opening boxes or helping himself to the sugary treats in easy reach and wondered how long before we would be in the line of fire.

Meanwhile, another lady had come up behind us in the line and was putting her shopping onto the counter.  She noticed we had a roll of dog meat and struck up a conversation about dogs.  In the few minutes we were waiting we covered what type of dogs we had, how they interacted with children and what we fed them, raising children, the busyness of life and balancing work with time spent with family.  Her friendliness and enjoyment of people and life was evident and she had a gift for encouraging communicativeness.  And she made my heart smile.  What was turning into a downer of a shopping trip was revived and I left smiling over her ability to cover so many topics with a complete stranger.

Simple lessons can be learnt in a checkout line.  Your attitude really does affect those around you.  In a few minutes you can make or break someone’s day.  The checkout line brings out the best and worst in people.  I will try to make it an opportunity for the best in future.

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3 thoughts on “The Checkout Line

  1. I don’t have this talent either. But then shopping, like everything else here in Italy, is expected to be slow. In our village where everyone knows each other and have known each other all their lives, before they can pay they have to recount how Aunt Maria is doing with her broken hip, if little Marco passed his exams, how the new renewal work on the main plaza is doing, and so forth. And all the while, the ice cream just gets a little softer…But that’s OK we love the feel of community!

    • I love the idea of shopping in an Italian village! Italians are renowned for community and I think can teach us a lot about slowing down to enjoy the simple things and to enjoy other people. I hope I get to visit your country one day.

      • Oh yes, it definitely is a community experience, and I hope you do get to experience it one day!

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