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On the Mark, Episode 12: Grocery Store Lines Cause Brain Damage and Emotional Disorders

June 23, 2009

Hi Everybody!

Back when I was a young guy, I used to watch with bemusement as really old, retired people would have the nerve to cut in line right in front of me-- or get all crotchety having to wait too long at the grocery store or bank.

I wondered, "What's the big hurry, you can't have a whole lot going on in your life to be in more of a hurry than me. I mean, when the highlight of your day is giving the mailman heck for being five minutes late, Gramps it's time for you to develop a new perspective on things."

But as I've grown older, I've begun to realize that years of waiting in the checkout lane at the grocery store causes permanent brain damage -- as well as a loss of emotional control. It's an accumulative thing. It's not one particular case, but years of enduring the following exposure that causes such rude and obnoxious behavior:

First of all, the material that you look at while waiting in line at the grocery store actually kills brain cells.

For starters, there are the soap opera magazines. I have never watched "The Young and the Restless," but I do know that Victor must be some real scheming jerk. I've been seeing that same dude's face at the supermarket since the Carter administration. Meanwhile, the dude must be 134 years old by now, and he still has that perfect California tan and mustache - plus he gets all the beautiful women, I'm guessing.

If I saw him on the street, I'd knock him on his can. Just out of jealousy.

Then I also note the latest alien abduction stories in the tabloids. Who would have thought, Barrack Obama was born from an experiment conducted by aliens. He's the secret lovechild of Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman. The aliens collected their DNA and mixed them together in a salad bowl, then spawned him in a tanning booth-shaped pod (made in China, no less).

They did this as a plot to take over the world.

And for some real life drama, how about the celebrity mags? If Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had never been born, all of those publications would have gone out of business years ago. Because millions of people need to find out the latest in the continuing saga of Bradgelina. Or Angepitt. Whatever they call that thing.

Just think, God planned out the whole course of human history, so that in 2009 we can find out that Brad Pitt called out Jennifer Aniston's name at an inopportune time, totally ticking off Angelina. But if that isn't enough, Angelina's gained 20 pounds in 3 days, and People Magazine has the secret beach photos inside.

Yep, He created the Universe just for this drama. It was all part of His plan.

But I digress . . .

Then you get up to the checkout operator. There are three kinds of cashiers.

First, you have The Lifer. When she was in kindergarten, this is exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up. Which is great, I've got no problem with that. Not everyone can grow up to be a rocket scientist.

Then you have The Supplementer. They are working because their no-good husband won't get off his behind and make the good money, like Brian their brother-in-law does. She makes sure she tells everyone that's why she's working there.

Then lastly, you have the Barbie Girl. These are cute young girls who are there until something better comes along (or they go off to college or get married). They are also there so that dirty old men can try to flirt with them, thinking that they still have "it" with the young ladies. Little do the guys know, the grocery store has an "ability to roll eyes without slapping dirty old men" requirement in the policy manual.

Living in a small town, with one community grocery store, you get to know The Lifers.

If you get in The Lifer's lane with an older lady customer in front of you, forget about it. The Lifer and lady customer have been planning all day for this meeting time. Lady customer is going to spend 7 hours talking to The Lifer about the wart operation she just had on her foot. And next week she's going in to have her appendix scoped.

Meanwhile, my ice cream has melted all over the treadmill thingy, and my cottage cheese has grown mold right in front of my very eyes.

The Lifers also try to mother me sometimes. One lady in particular does this, let's call her Alice.

I've been shopping in that store for three years, I see her a couple of times a week, I've had my kids with me about a hundred times . . . and she actually carded me when I bought an adult beverage. I'd had to have been 9 years old when I fathered my children (to be under 21), but I guess she hasn't figured that out yet.

When I was 21, I never got carded. Twenty years later, and now I'm getting carded. How many underage guys have bald heads (not by choice), grey in their beard, kids in sixth grade, and drive a 4-door Galant?

And Alice needs to comment on all of the various things I am buying. Ah, what a great deal on those bananas . . . Hey, do you like that cereal, have you ever tried Metamucil Flakes? They make me real regular . . .

I can only imagine a nervous young man going through the checkout with a certain, ahem, private product. I'm picturing Alice asking him, "Hey, I see you've got a special night planned . . . how is that brand fitting 'ya? You've got to try the ribbed, my son Jason says he really likes that kind . . ."

Trying to find the right lane to go through is an equally stressful experience for me.

I'm hauling all of these groceries in both hands, between my armpits, and a couple of boxes balanced on my head (I just went in for milk) -- and I have to look over each line and figure out which line is shorter. It takes 10 minutes or so to decide.

I pull out my abacus and compute the number of items in each person's cart, and multiply that number by the square root of the speed of the checkout operator. Then add the value of pie (the number, not the desert), before I account for the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, to allow for random delays (price checks, paper getting jammed, ladies with warty feet stories, etc.)

After I have made my calculations and committed to a checkout line, my very manhood depends on having made the right decision.

I watch very closely how fast the other lines are going. I stomp up and down and gnash my teeth against the credit card machine stand if another line ends up going faster than planned. When I see the other customer who shouldn't have gotten out before me in the parking lot, I give him or her the evil eye. I mope about it for days and write these silly essays to blow off steam.

Then the bagger has to add to the stress and ask me if I want paper or plastic. I'm already so screwed up with all of this global warming stuff, I don't know how to answer. Do I want to cut down an entire forest, or burn five barrels of oil to make the plastic bag? Either way, the earth is going to burn up and my kids are going to die.

Maybe they need a third option - bags made of vegetable leaves. You take your groceries home in them, then you eat the bags. If they used cabbage leaves, then you've got the gas shortage solved, too.

Sometimes I avoid the stress of going through the checkout lane, and instead go through the self checkout.

But that gets me even more flustered. The lady inside the machine is so darned annoying. She's so totally anal, nobody could ever be married to such a woman. She tells you what to do, you do what she says, and she still keeps telling you to do it. THE LADY JUST DOESN'T PAY ATTENTION. I have been known to yell back at her, man is she such a nag.

Then you put money in the slot, and she spits it back out. She gets testy with you because it's taking too long. She just wants your money and gives you nothing but trouble. It reminds me of when I was married.

But enough about me . . . this blog is about why people get crotchety . . .

And finally, whether it's in the self checkout or in the regular checkout lane, the last thing that causes stress is when a person is standing so close to you, that it would be considered lewd activity in 23 states. If stepping over one inch puts you in my lap, you're too close. Back off, already.

If you're Christy Brinkley, you can stand that close. But it's never Christy Brinkley. It's always Don Rickles' uglier brother.

So, as you can see, going through the checkout at the grocery store causes high stress and brain damage. That's why the smart people just steal what they need off the shelf. They'd rather risk prison time than go through that ordeal. It's for their own good.

Now you know why old people cut in line and make a donkey out of themselves in those types of situations. It is from years of mental and emotional abuse. So in the future, just remember:

Forgive them, for they know not what they do.Until next time, don't be one of those people with too many items in the Express Lane. There is a special place planned for you. Just so 'ya know . . .



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