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.

  • Greta Koenigin

    I totally believe that you break multiple bones each time you go through the check out. I age in groceries stores, too. When I catch my reflection in the window or the rear view mirror afterwards, I notice that I, all of a sudden, got grayer AND fatter.

  • 72bananas

    Chuck is dead ringer for Jackie O

  • pattymonster

    There was a really old man (like, really REALLY old) working concessions at a movie theater my boyfriend and I used to go to and every time we’d go there and he wasn’t working, we’d freak out a little thinking he’d died. We had to find a different theater to go to because it was stressing us out too much.

  • P

    I guess there’s a couple in every store. We have two “seasoned” baggers that I try to avoid at all costs. The ones that put cereal and dry boxed pasta in the insulated cold bag and the bananas and bread on the bottom of the bag UNDERNEATH the canned items. I’d be the first to cop to the fact I’m a bit on the anal side, but c’mon…

    We also have a cashier that we refer to by name as “Hey, less talking- more scanning” lady who finds it necessary to discuss all items in our cart. oi!

    “Clean- up on register 4″ because my head just exploded!

  • The Bold Soul

    Living in France for the past three years, having moved here from NJ (where we do pretty much everything at warp speed), I’ve learned the hard way about the slowing down thing; the French are Latin and things just move slower, even in a major city like Paris. It’s not so bad, and I’ve gotten to like just sitting in a cafe, writing for hours with no pressure to give up my table (because the waiters just don’t bug you about it; they get paid a fair wage and don’t exist on tips). That being said, I’ve had my issues with the supermarket, from the escargot-slow checkers to the badly designed store layout to the illogical way they stock shelves to the complete stupidity of their home delivery system.

    So what does it have to teach me, my crappy local Parisian supermarket? How to get over my mental block about speaking French. Read about it here. Hint: involves throwing a small fit in public.

  • The Bold Soul

    Hmmm, HTML link I set up didn’t seem to work. Go here to read about my French supermarket hissy fit (#55):
    http://theboldsoul.lisataylorhuff.com/the_bold_soul/2009/12/small_victories.html

  • marialoo

    Golden Delicious apples = 4020 :)

  • amulle03

    I was just going to comment on your gift suggestions, but then I read the posts, and had to throw in my two cents… So what drives me nuts at the grocery store is the checkers who can’t pack the reusable bags. They take 10 minutes trying to figure out the best way to pack the bag, and they enjoy unpacking and repacking and shifting things around… I don’t have time for that nonsense!! I just spent an hour in your store trying to find things, and I have a baby here who is D.O.N.E. Plus, I load the heavy things first, so it should be really straightforward for them. Seriously, I now use the self checkout whenever humanly possible, even when I have a full cart. It’s faster for me to do it myself. And yes, a cart full will fit in 4-5 reusable bags – I can’t stand it when the baggers only put 2 things in a bag and then start giving me plastic. FILL THAT BAG!! It’s not rocket science. pHEW.

    Anyway! Just wanted to thank you dooce for the gift suggestions – clicked on the “unmentionables” b/c I was trying to see what they actually were – hilarious! They also have parking ones – did you see? So I have ordered multiple of each – what a great stocking stuffer! THANKS!!

  • vonfengler

    Okay – sweet of you to get into his line – HOWEVER I totally understand…and its NOT mean for you to say or think that stuff. The other day we were at Costco and the checker looked and acted like someone out of Lord or the Rings. I turned to my husband and under my breath muttered “oh great, every reason to believe middle earth does exist.” He told me I was meanest person on the earth and then went out of his way to try and talk and befriend this checker….on the way out however he asked “the portal to/from middle earth HAS to be inside that place…where are they coming from?!?”

  • John Duke

    It sounds like you should take a vitamin D supplement before going shopping – it helps your body absorb calcium. That way you can avoid the osteoporosis thing and just sit there being impatient instead.

  • woodlandbotanical

    There is one cashier at our store that is very popular. People will wait in line to have her check them out. The other clerk is just standing there. I also have trouble with some stores not knowing how to bag my reusable bags. I tell them it will all fit. A lot of the time stuff is just piled on top because they can’t figure it out and I refuse to get a plastic or paper bag. My regular store is excellent with the bagging because most folks bring their own bags.

  • John Duke

    As much as it makes me jealous as a fellow blogger about his two little daughters, I have to say the Jeopardy thing is pretty fucking cool. I guess you know you’ve made it when you become one of the answers. The question I have is – were you *really* just sitting around watching Jeopardy at the time that answer showed up? I mean, who is a regular Jeopardy watcher nowadays other than Raymond Babbitt and old people in nursing homes?

  • McIsaac

    I love older, slower folk they just make me appreciate them and hold them dear.

  • maggie17

    I have osteoporosis. And I’m 29 years-old. And that made me laugh so goddamn hard, I think I broke a bone. Really. If we can’t laugh at pain, what are we going to do? Cry? That’s a last resort. Keep it coming. I love your site. And it’s true: we all need reminders at some point to slow down. I bet even the grocery checker does. It’s all relative, really.

  • krisluv8

    Is it bad that if I were a cashier, I would do the exact same thing while trying to remember the code?

  • MFA Mama

    There’s a checker like that at the grocery store close to my home. When I first separated from my ex-husband, we had to go on WIC to get by, and since we live in an affluent area, NONE of the checkers knew how to process a WIC purchase without help from a manager (one actually told me “you’re the only one who ever uses that here”). The one I always tried to avoid never remembered that he’d told me his life story before and would lecture me on how he and his wife had SIX children and never got a cent from the gubmint, because he always made a little too much money, and maybe he should’ve quit working, since that’s what EVERYBODY DOES, and I never quite knew what to do with that. Sometimes I’d say “well you’re very fortunate to have been able to support them all without help,” sometimes I’d say “I have a terminal degree and am working on getting a job but one of my children is disabled so it’s hard,” sometimes I’d ignore him…it was like Groundhog Day. Once I even told him “do you think I would voluntarily put myself through this for a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk, a pound of cheese and a jar of peanut butter if I had other options? You always give me this lecture and I try to be polite but REALLY???” I thought we’d had a breakthrough but no, the next (and fortunately LAST) time I came through his line with a WIC check he looked at me and my kids and said “y’know, the wife and I raised six kids, never got a penny from–” and I finished up “the gubmint, always made a little too much money, yes, I know, now push the WIC key twice before you start scanning, flip your light on so a manager can come override the system because it never recognizes the milk as a WIC item, and remember to hit tender and then check after the total.” He looked at me like I was psychic. It was actually pretty gratifying.

    I’m SO glad we’re in better shape now and don’t have to accept any GUBMINT HELP because WOW…

  • love2stich

    I am needing to learn to slow down right now! I am 31 work 50hrs/week at my daytime office job and then 30+hrs/week trying to start my own baking/pastry business and I just got PNEUMONIA! Never had it before, didnt know that I need to take it so seriously and now I find myself moving as slow as an elderly person shuffling my feet and stopping in mid sentence because I cannot remember the word I was thinking of… maybe I should keep a dictionary close by so I can look at it – just as the old man glances at the produce section!!!

    Loved the baking story by the way… cracked me up because I am “one of those” that bakes almost everyday. Thanks for everything you do & Happy Holidays!!!

  • aslapintheface

    Ah … that almost made me cry. I think that instead of avoiding lines like that then we should actually seek them out (assuming that we aren’t being chased by the FBI and need to get our pack of gum in a hurry). Having a nice little chat with the person that everybody else avoids might just make their day.

  • faeth

    I know exactly who you are talking about and he drives me INSANE! The lady in front of me yesterday, though, was so rude to him, I felt obliged to be super sweet. He didn’t seem to care, however. No more old guy line for me.

  • beautifulexmormonmel

    To the one complaining about checkers not being able to pack the reusable bags: These bags are only 2 years old. Nobody who’s been a cashier has ever seen these bags before. If your cashier is DOING IT WRONG, then DO IT YOURSELF.

    Don’t whine about it. I’m a checker and I take great pains to make sure those damn cloth bags are properly packed– if I take longer, then it means your bread won’t get squished, your cans will be on the BOTTOM of the bag, not on top of your graps, etc.

    Not everyone at the checkout lane knows what they’re doing, but some of us do. If we can’t work fast enough with the NEWFANGLED bags as you’d like us to be able to, maybe you should ask your checker to let YOU bag. They get their time up, you get every fricken thing where the frick you want it.

    I HAVE A DEGREE. Why am I a checker? Because there ARE NO JOBS. Also, I got a semi-worthless degree in music.

    I am also a damn good checker.

  • jillianinchelem

    should have bought the milk sooner.

  • They made me choose a username

    32 PLU. That’s the code for bananas. You use the banana code more than any other produce code.

    (Actually that was the code about 20 years ago; they’ve changed it now, or so my local grocery store checker tells me.)

    Yeah, they’re all 4-digit codes now. http://supermarketpage.com/prucodes.php
    Your checker is probably picturing a list like the one I just linked, but really you just have to memorize a few main fruits and veggies; nobody begrudges you having to look up the code for pomegranates (although even that one would be easy in November).

    Update: I guess I should know better than to post a comment before reading the others. Also would help me not to reveal my advanced age.

  • BostonNic

    Oh man I’m such a sucker for old men. They’re so damn cute.

    And also? Being on Jeopardy? KICK ASS.

  • the niffer

    Holy shit, you were an answer on Jeopardy. Woman, you have ARRIVED!

  • sunshinecupcakes

    There’s an old man at the store where my mom shops and she thinks he’s really cool (laid back, dolphin wrist tattoo, kinda gruff) but she hates getting in his line because he smells bad.

    You win some, you lose some!

  • Bargain Junkie

    I’m an impatient New Yorker who is a transplant to oh-so-laid-back Los Angeles, and the casual tempo in stores here drives me NUTS! The way I handle slow supermarket lines is to read every trashy magazine in sight. My righteous Danish brother-in-law was shocked when he saw me indulging in this guilty pleasure and accused me of stealing. He said I had no right to read anything that I wasn’t going to buy. That’s a little too noble for me.

  • Overwelmedd

    LOL @connieemeraldeyes. I came to comment the same exact thing. Remember this number Heather 4011. You can cue him next time :D

  • RebeccaSoFla

    I must have undiagnosed mental problems… I just laughed too hard at this post; to say it tickled me is a gross understatement.

    Still laughing at your broken pelvis……..

  • suburbanmummyuk

    And this is why I use fast track in the supermarket I use. I get my own scanner and then I hand it to them they tell me how much I pay and I leave and there is never a queue. I seriously loose years off my life if I have to queue it’s stresses me out, mostly as I always go shopping with my two children and that is always a joy.

  • Figtron

    First of all…bless his heart.

    Second, I would have to jump behind the counter and help him.

    Last, that will be US in about 30+ years.

    Scary as shit, isn’t it?

  • allegrapostsforrose

    I’d be avoiding him too….but too funny with the bananas and looking back at the produce isle. Our entire society needs to slow down so perhaps he is there for all of us to learn from. lol