Want To Check Out Fast? Get Behind Me.

Here's something strange: Before I leave the cashier line, I glance behind me. No one is ever there. It's always an empty lane -- as if I were the last customer in the store. I can't figure it out.
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Old chum Dick Stroud is annoyed by old people in cashier queues:

2014-09-09-DS.jpg"...Why do young people swap checkout lines when they see an older person in front of them? Well I have to be honest, so do I and believe me I am far from being young. The reason? Some older people, for a mixture of physical and attitudinal reasons move slowly (very). They seem as if they have all the time in the world (which they do) and are oblivious to the aggravation they cause as a line of people are anxious to get served, whilst they engage the check-out operator in banal chat. You can see that it does bug me!"

I'm right behind him on this. (Actually, I'm not right behind him because if I saw the back of his head in a line, I'd scurry away to find another line.) Old people, even old people younger than I am, take forever to check out. What the hell is their problem?

I'm always in and out lickety-split. A few piffling things might hold me up a moment or so:

Those politically-correct bags I lug with me are invariably at the bottom of the shopping cart, when I try to pull them out all the groceries fly every which way, rolling up and down the aisles -- and reaching down, my glasses and cap usually fall off. It only takes me a few minutes to gather everything up.

Then I have to fish around in my wallet for the store loyalty card and debit card. They're never where they're supposed to be. I pretty much have to pull everything out and flip through all the cards in all the pockets. No big deal. Sometimes I bobble them and there they go. But again, it only takes another few minutes to scoop them up and put them back in the correct billfold pockets. I make sure they're all stacked in each pocket, in the right order and facing in the same direction, so the next time I can find them, even though that never works for some reason. I always feel obligated to explain all this to the cashier -- but I do it while I'm picking up and sorting out everything -- so there's no extra time.

2014-09-09-bluelightredarrow.jpgThen there's the pay terminal. Swiping a card is like landing a plane. There are blinking blue runway lights shaped like arrows, there to tell you in which direction you are to approach with your store card. You have to manage the angle of decent, make sure you control the roll, pitch and yaw. If you miss it, you have to circle around and try again. Two hints: whatever you do, don't land too slowly or too quickly -- and don't land upside down. It often takes me only three or four approaches. No big deal. When that's done, it's time to attempt a few landings with your credit card.

2014-09-09-fingers2.jpgNext, the keyboard. It's nestled in a black hole, ostensibly to block prying eyes from stealing your password. But you can't see in there, either. When you try to locate and push the buttons, your hand is in the way. After only ten or twelve tries usually, I can poke in my PIN. Don't worry. The whole thing goes by in a flash.

And I'm almost done. A few questions about Debit or Credit? and Cash Back? and Are You OK With This Amount? Of course, I take a bit of extra time, maybe five seconds for each query, just to make sure I answer correctly. Sometimes I don't, but that doesn't take too long to fix. I just pull out the cards from my wallet and do it all again.

And it's over. All a breeze.

But here's something strange: Before I leave the cashier line, I glance behind me. No one is ever there. It's always an empty lane -- as if I were the last customer in the store.

I can't figure it out.

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