On teaching me to slow down

There’s this really lovely checker at our grocery store, an older man who has to take his time as he rings up every item in the cart, and by that I mean I once walked through his line with a magazine, a pack of gum, and a gallon of milk and by the time he handed me my receipt I was hunched over with osteoporosis.

I’m sorry, is that mean? Is making fun of calcium deficiencies off-limits now? I’m asking only because I just had the thought that someone might lecture me about how IT’S NOT JUST A CALCIUM DEFICIENCY, HEATHER. It’s so much more than that, I know, but seriously, by the time he scanned the milk my pelvic bone had snapped in two.

So I avoid his line like the plague now. Always on the lookout for another line, but yesterday his was the only one with no one in it. Maybe because everybody else is avoiding him, too. And I suddenly felt so sorry for him that I walked right up and started to set my things down on the conveyor belt, hopeful that maybe today he’d had a few cups of coffee or was experimenting with doses of Adderall.

Sadly, no. It was taking him several minutes to choose which item he wanted to scan first, and when he grabbed the bananas I was all OH CRAP. Because whenever he scans a vegetable or fruit, something that requires some sort of memorized numerical code to identify, he stops, breathes as if it is his last breath, looks over his right shoulder IN THE DIRECTION OF THE PRODUCE SECTION, and then closes his eyes for as long as it takes one of my bones to break.

As if the produce section is going to yell out the number. I’m not going to lie, it is the cutest thing I have ever seen.

  • amandalk

    There is a person like that at my grocery store. I hate to admit that I avoid him, but I do. Really should learn to slow the heck down sometimes.

  • yogafan

    Awww.. too cute! I am guilty of being way too impatient in the grocery store, too.

  • Jennifer M.

    There is an elderly man who works as a bagger at my local grocery store who loves to chat with anyone about anything. I’m not even joking. One time he and I had quite a lengthy conversation about Bounty paper towels and who had the best deal on them. I hate it when he bags my groceries, but at the same time I think “He’s just an old friendly man who is probably lonely and just wants someone to talk to you.” And what does it cost me to be nice to him? Nothing at all.

  • rantingravenlunatic

    We have a lady at our local store that every time she checks us out I feel so bad. Her hands are so misshapen from arthritis it looks painful. But she keeps on. Ya know, many of our seniors are forced to go back to work and sometimes it breaks my heart. Others not so much – there are some that are just nasty old people.

  • zerpdog

    I think every store in America is required to hire an old man/woman that fits that description. And I always end up in their line!!

  • BigMamaCass

    There is no way that guy lives in Utah because he TOTALLY lives here! And I get him EVERY TIME I go to the store because usually he is the ONLY checker. And by the time I get out of there, my kid is screaming so bad because he is totally ADD and gets bored sitting in the checkout lane for 123749182734 hours that by the time I get to the car, I have no hair because I pulled it all out and my teeth are mere stumps from all the grinding! AHH!

  • Kittay Skeezah

    Awww poor old man. Bless his heart! lol

    I gotta admit, I have no patience for people like that. But then I feel bad afterwards. Oh well!

  • kcbelles

    One day, we will all be there. Would be nice to think we’ll get to retire and enjoy our golden years, but the way the economy has been going, I think more and more of us will be working beyond age 70.

    So, yeah, OK, avoid their line if you’re in a hurry, but if you’ve got a few minutes, it doesn’t hurt to let them do what they’re supposed to do and if you get a little visiting in with it, good for you.

  • Lena

    AW, you are so good for taking his line. Maybe the mangos secretly yell to him, “That’ll be $4.99!”

    I am in love with the old Russian guy in our store, his name is Alex with beautiful white hair.

    That picture of Chuck made me nearly lose my morning smoothie. “Dawl! Cawl me and we’ll go for a manicuwah!”

  • rcheli123

    Well, can you blame the guy for being a little gunshy with the bananas? I mean, were they organic? Were they those really tiny bananas? Were they plantains, for cryin’ out loud?

    That sort of stuff is a nightmare waiting to happen for any grocery check-out person.

  • sarahmichelef

    I think his evil twin works at my grocery store. Only rather than looking at the produce section dramatically, she really simply cannot deal with bagging in anything other than a standard grocery bag. It’s like she has to adjust her whole worldview when we bring in our motley collection of canvas totes and bags from academic conferences.

  • Caitlinjane

    You could always look up a plu list and remember the codes of the produce you buy most often and surprise him when he holds your bananas “4011!” I bet he’s surprised and pleased you’re being helpful!

  • wendirobinson

    i love caitlinjane’s idea! and chuck totally looks like bret sommers from the match game in those glasses! i know, i’m showing my age ;)

  • connieemeraldeyes

    The banana code is 4011. I use it so much, I know it now.
    Chuck looks cool in the glasses.

  • Lohmann107

    OMG you were a cLue on jeoparty today!!!! Ahhh dooced!

  • vodkamom

    That will be us in the BLINK of an eye.

  • BOSSY

    Without your bananas you’d develop a potassium deficit as well. Just to cheer you a bit.

  • belle006

    I would blow my head off. Or his. But more likely mine, because quite frankly, I don’t have the damn time to sit in prison for murder.

    Living in the NYC metro area has done nothing but make me a tightly wound, completely scheduled bitch. Things are NOT fun when I go home to Louisiana for the holidays.

  • Nicovember

    You were a clue on Jeopardy?? Dang, girl!

  • WebSavyMom

    –>If you need a stiff drink by the time you get home, bananas are good for a hangover!

  • GrandRGrand

    Hey #16. Blink, blink. I’m already there! I’d type more… but it took me four hours to type this. ;)

  • susanruffin

    I thought the code for bananas was 4854. I love slow people, I am one of them. NOW GET OUT MY WAY!

  • Jacquie

    It’s cool that you went to the line on a day when you had time. I feel like I never have – or make – the time. There’s this one bagger at my grocery store who is employed through a programs that helps adults with special needs find jobs, and I’ve made it a point to go to his line and talk with him, make eye contact, goof around. He’s a really happy guy. When he put a gallon of milk on top of my organic, vine ripened tomatoes I said “oops”, let’s put that in another bag; and then he stopped smiling. Last time my husband went to that store, he came home with an apple crumb cake that had been placed sideways in the bag. I shit you not.

    So, my meandering point here is that the peeps don’t make it easy for us to be saintly now, do they?

    http://meandyouandellie.blogspot.com/2009/12/watch-it.html

  • greenplanner
  • MelHeth

    I have the precursor to osteoporosis and I’m not offended. You’re fine.

  • One Pot

    I confess: I just spent 10 minutes at World Market waiting to get in line at just the right moment so that I wouldn’t get The Cashier of Eternal Soliloquy:

    “Hello, dear, how vaz everiding? You vant sign up for coupons? It save you a ton of cash? No? Oh, doze are 6 for $12; you vant get 5 more to get discount? Ok, sveetie, but you miss a good deal! No? Oh, deez are cute; vat you gonna do with dem? For your boyfriend? You have boyfriend?”

  • kimchi mama

    I once read in a book:

    You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

    Good words them..

  • hulahulagirl

    I really think people like that are in our lives to teach us something. I wish there was a photo of him here, but I can imagine him.

  • brooke at claremont road

    Oh my SHINGLES!!!!!!!! YOU, Heather Armstrong, were just an answer on JEOPARDY! I know this has no relevance to your post… I just got excited and wanted to tell you :-)

  • katliz

    As with #14, connieemeraldeyes, I, too, know that bananas are code #4011. Does Utah not have self checkout? It has saved my grocery shopping experience from actually having to deal with old cashiers, rude cashiers, and the ever-present teenager-cracking-gum-I-have-to-get-a-grown-up-to-ring-up-your-wine cashiers.

  • TeeBird

    Man.. the setup to leave a comment is a pain in the arse!
    I’m commenting not on this post but to let you know Dooce.com was an answer to a question on today’s episode of Jeopardy. It was the only answer I knew. And the only one my husband didn’t.

  • TeeBird

    and while I’m here, let me say – I don’t mind old slow people but I hate the punks that squish my produce!

  • armchairdesign

    Once when we lived in a town that only had a *WalMart* to shop in I met a cashier that was so stooped from osteoporosis he barely could see over the counter. Turns out he was one of the soldiers that liberated Dachau. He was slow, palsied, and forgetful, but he was an incredible human being. I miss him. :o (

  • msmoot

    Good god. Give the man a product code cheat sheet. The grocery store employers must be sadists.

  • Leslie_Yum

    We have one of those. So cute. Also the reason that before I go to the grocery store I do the following things, in this order:
    1. Take some calcium
    2. Make a list of groceries
    3. Drink a lot of alcohol

    :)

  • kristing104

    OH MY GOD!!! You were just a question on jeopardy!!!!!!!

  • megatann78

    On a unrelated note, I got a Jeopardy question right. The answer was YOU!!!

  • felaleof

    Thanks to several months as a cashier, I still have certain produce codes memorized, and if a cashier hesitates for more than ten seconds, I do volunteer the code with an apologetic smile. 4011 (yes, we have no 4011..) is the most commonly used one.

  • elizations

    There is a wild woman at my local Walgreens. It’s on a busy corner of Chicago and is always packed. The line curls around the store due to the slowness of this woman. She literally comments on everything that you buy. Once a guy was buying condoms and she said “hehe I know what you’re doing tonight, gotta be safe” and 5 more minutes of jibber jabber. I’ve grown to like her, but you can tell when someone new has moved to the neighborhood because they will leave immediately if they see she is working check out.

  • louloch

    take some time to get to know him. strike up a conversatation… life isn’t always about you, you might be surprised what you find out about him. or maybe you can brighten his day a little. i can’t imagine scanning your bananas is very stimulating. or maybe he’s not a very nice person, you never know til you make the effort.

  • Mel D

    “Dooced” was an answer on Jeopardy today! None of the contestants even attempted to answer the question… SHINGLES for them, I guess!

  • linnysol

    as hard as it may seem to do at times….slow down and try to enjoy the present moment. you can’t change it so try to make the best of it. one of you will benefit from it!

  • Wombat Central

    I definitely have checkout people I avoid. Mostly mine are the ones who clearly have no one else with whom they can converse. Sometimes, though, it’s the other people in line you have to watch out for:

    http://wombatcentral.blogspot.com/2009/06/checkout-follies.html

  • barbara

    4011 is the banana code! I still remember that from when I worked at Kash n Karry when I was 19.

  • OfficerCupcake

    I feel like I put a lot of effort into creating a login and all that (not to bitch, probably mostly operator error) just to say, doesn’t everbody know bananas are 4011? But, alas, I’ve been beaten to the punch. Oh, well. But, I am really offended by the remarks about bone loss. Ok, just fucking with you. Do genuinely love cute old people and will cut them more slack than anybody if they’re impeding the pace of my life.

  • Pinkporches

    Someone needs to write a book called the Banana Code. A riveting mystery on the symbolism of the numbers 4011 and the secret brotherhood of old man checkout-er guys.

    I didn’t watch Jeopardy but what was the question? Or the answer? Whatever, I was watching Glee on the DVR thingy, eating cheetos and probably drooling a tiny bit.

    Smiles,
    Lisa

  • thegingerbreadmom

    There is a cashier I avoid because she always comments on patron’s purchases, and has disgustingly long fingernails.

    Once while in line the customer ahead of me purchased oil and an oil filter. She asked him all sorts of questions about changing his oil, his car, etc.

    After attending my six-week postpartum checkup, I placed my purchases of nursing pads, condoms, personal lubricant, wine and beer onto the counter and looked at the cashier expectantly.

    She actually said, “It looks like you have a fun evening ahead!”

    Who does that? I’d take an old, slow man over that any day!

  • irritableblogsyndrome

    Oh that is the cutest thing! I love the older crowd. They really are good and teaching us to slow down, whether they mean to or not.

  • hopelds

    Maybe because I have a mentally-challenged daughter who has been working fast food for years, but I try to deliberately get into the ‘slow’ line.

    45 seconds more in a line is not going to kill any one of us.

  • bexs369

    DAMN I missed Jeopardy! I take it the question was about being “dooced?”

    Anyway. It sounds to me like the old fella is having himself a downright orgasm when you go through his line. It takes him a while to get it out. Cut him a break, Heather.

    You see, when you write something like this, I visualize it. And this is what I’ve come up with. He probably reads here, too….so I’m giving props to pops!