Grocery Dystopia

Here’s something about me you may not know.

I have the superhuman ability to pick the worst, slowest, most melodramatic grocery store check out line.  It’s not conscious, obviously, but it is reknowned.

I scan the lines now.  Try to avoid senior citizens because they insist on paying with checks and have coupons to discuss.  People who have big carts with lots of produce.

As an aside, is there anything sadder than watching fat people buy bottles and cases of soda?  Stop it!  You’re killing yourself!

Regardless of which line I choose, express lanes included, it’s pretty much guaranteed that it’s going to be the slowest or that there’s going to be some drama involved.

One night it was the Russian construction workers trying to buy beer at Shoppers Warehouse, but getting grief and being treated disrespectfully in my opinion because they didn’t have US IDs.

One night it was the oldster who asked me for a ride home and was a former employee of that particular grocery store.  I blogged about that.

One night it was the clerk who, when I walked to her checkout aisle and started putting things on the conveyor, looked at me and said with attitude, “Sir, that line over there only has one person.”  Her line only had one person, too, but apparently she was … I don’t know.  Needed a break?  Just had ‘tude?   Didn’t feel like doing her effing job?  I went over to the other line, swallowing my indignation, which turned into a not un-typical Gary in line at the grocery store experience.  In other words, Attitude Girl accomodated five or six customers and meanwhile I was still waiting in line behind that one customer for who knows what reason.  A thorough discussion of coupons and expiration dates betwixt the clerk and my line neighbor, if I remember correctly.

One time it was the young employees buying a few things and ending their shift for the night enjoying a repartee with their colleague at the cash register.

Tonight I went to pick up some almond milk and found myself in the 15 or less line.  And you know how you’re just standing there waiting and then realize that the line hasn’t moved in a while?  There was a woman who for God only knows what reason was intent on spending $50.  She only had $46.76 worth of groceries, though, so she kept trying to find things to get her to $50.  Those little tiny booklets at the counter.  TV guide.  She left the line to go look for other things.  The clerk, who was a manager actually, started calling out to her, “Ma’am, you’re holding up my line.”  She kept wandering around looking for things, apparently oblivious to the fact that there was a long, growing line behind her with increasingly impatient customers.  Finally, she came back to the line leaned on the cart of the woman who was in front of me and….  Well, I was expecting that she had a $50 gift card but no.  She used a Bank of America check card.  Or maybe she had a gift card or food stamps or both.  But it was a good seven to minutes.  Seven to minutes is an epoch when you’re in a grocery store line.

It’s not atypical of my checkout experiences, though.

It makes me worry sometimes.  Like, what will happen to society when things unravel. Because there’s nothing that will provoke uncivilized behavior — or restrained uncivility — like being inconvenienced while waiting in line.  A guy behind me just walked away, sat his purchase on the counter of the adjacent aisle and walked out.  Another guy said, “This is the first time I’ve been to a Safeway.  And it’s the last.”  It wasn’t anything outrageous.  People were cool about it.  They were just inconvenienced and miffed.

But what happens when grocery stores run out of food?  When people have to stand in line for water and toilet paper?  We’re so used to having everything now.  What will we be like when we’re not sure if we’ll be able to buy diapers for our babies and feed our families?  A society where people get trampled to death for video game consoles.

It made me think of “The Mist”.  Have you seen that?  Crazy Stephen King movie.  It was okay. I liked it despite the bleak ending until I thought about it.  Turned out to be a typical “people are the real monsters”, life-us interruptus in a small northeastern town kind of deal.  In other words, a Stephen King movie.  And then it was just a bug movie.  Big spiders, big crab or mantis type things, big squid tentacle, big mosquitos, big bats.  Vaguley mutated.  In other words, the alien ecosystem was just giant, nastier, man eating versions of our creepy crawlies.  Not very creative or imaginitve, but well done.

But the point is that the customers who are trapped in a grocery store in this creature-ridden mist are an archetypal cross-section of society.  Like any grocery store.  And therefore it’s a perfect representation of a dystopian society when the system breaks down.

It would be more fascinating than boring or frustrating if I weren’t standing there trying to resist buying a pack of Grape/Strawberry Nerds.

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