I think sometimes that I have spent a large portion of my life waiting in line. Back there in the very early years when I started going to school, I got my first taste of standing in line, before marching into the building and into the classroom. Later on, I stood in line to get my high school diploma. Then came my time in the marines, where I spent hours waiting in line for everything from the dreaded typhoid shot, to entering the mess halls to get my meals
There have been times when I have gone to the grocery store and not have to stand in line to have my purchases checked out, but there are times when getting out of the store is a slow process, because of the lines at the check-out counter. Last fell I had an experience with one of these lines. I picked a time during a lull in a good televised football game to slip out to the grocery store to pick up several needed items, Since I was enjoying the football game, this proved to be my big mistake of the day. After I got in the check-out line I realized that nobody seemed to be in a hurry but me. Or it appeared to be that way.
The little white haired lady at the head of the line was having a terrible time struggling with her pocketbook that was just about as big as she was. I assumed that she was searching for her check book. She had the full attention of everyone in the waiting line, and when her little hand popped out with the checks, everyone seemed to silently cheer. Then while the check-out girl and those in line waited patiently, she searched diligently for her pen to write the check. The smiling check-out girl made us all happy when she handed the lady a pen.
I’m sure you have had the experience of observing the part that followed the writing of the check. After writing the check, and tearing it out, the writer starts turning little partial pages until she comes to the point of previous balance, and brings her book up to date. Ten minutes of my precious time and the little lady marches out toting her groceries.
The next person in line got her groceries checked out in a hurry. Two down and one to go. I felt pretty good when the lady in front of me maneuvered her piled up cart into place. She was a very intelligent lady. I could tell, because she had her checkbook in her hand ready to write. Suddenly while the groceries were being scanned, the scene changed. She reached into her big fat pocketbook and pulled out what appeared to be close to a hundred coupons she had clipped out of newspapers. I could see my football
After losing ten more minutes, it finally came my turn. But I would have to wait a game coming to an end. All those coupons and the same number of items, and the bagboy nowhere in sight. A new cashier walked up carrying her money tray. They always have to change trays when they change cashiers. I guess they do that so the money will check out with the register tapes at the end of the day. If they don’t, the manager will know who to point a finger at.
They finally got me checked out, and I headed to the parking lot, but had forgotten where my car was parked, Five more minutes of my football game gone, and I finally found my car and took off for home. I got there and unloaded my groceries and learned that the game was over, and my team had won. I put my groceries away, still fussing about the little lady and her checkbook. But I did find some comfort in the fact that I had gotten two half gallons of ice cream for the price of one.
That night about six hours after my terrible time at the checkout counter, I decided it was about time for me to enjoy a heaping dish of ice cream. I went to the refrigerator to get it, but there was no ice cream. After looking high and low for it, I decided to look in the car. There it was, a gallon of bargain ice cream melted all over the car seat.
If I had it to do all over again, I would walk up to the cashier and pay for that little gray haired lady’s groceries, and get back home to enjoy the exciting finish to the football game. And maybe even celebrate the victory with a big bowlful of bargain ice cream.
-Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.