The Supermarket Line

There are three grocery stores nearby my place, one is cheap and skimp on style the way I imagine most Soviet supermarkets were like, another pretends to be economical but slams you in the end, and the third is somewhere in the middle of the road and I like that but it’s also a little further away.  Today I chose the second one because I needed some powdered sugar and it was the closest by.  The Socialist-state one is across the street and when I am feeling frugal I head for there, but it usually means waiting in a long line because the policy is that they never open more than one cash register at a time.  It’s always been like that and it’s funny because they have at least three.  They never operate them at the same time and it’s funny too because there are plemty of workers moving around.  They like to open boxes at that store.  Lots of boxes and that means I have to put up with cashiers who have been ired for their extremely laid-back work technique.

     That’s why I chose the other, but I might as well have been in the Socialist-state one because there was a line there as long as the ones I remember for getting gas back in the 1970s.  They were dreadful and yet I can’t really explain why that happened. There was an explanation for this line: there were simply too many people trying to buy at the same time, as is usually the case just before lunchtime, and not enough workers to service them.  The store has a policy which is written proudly in big letters that the minute more than three people in line they will open another cash register.  In the soviet-store from across the street, such a guarantee would provoke a hearty laugh since the only time a new cashier comes in it’s to close the first one, which they do with a chain and a well-articulated “I’m closed”.

     On this occasion there were approximately 25 people in line meaning they would have had to open eight registers which, of course, they did not have.  Signs of desperation appeared on the faces of the customers and I joined along just enjoy the feeling of being a part of a larger group representing general dissatisfaction.  Eventually they activated another but the numbers continued to pile up behind us.  My daughter and I were are that point where we could sense we were coming to the end of the road but unsure of when that would exactly occur since the variables such as credit cards, coupons and lost bar codes could prolong the agony.  I did a recount and determined another five cashiers would be needed to come to the rescue for the store to comply with its promise but at that moment I would have been satisfied with just one more.  That one came, from the far left. A voice called the customers over.

    Here’s where solidarity kind of falls apart.  I jumped on the offer and headed right for the conveyor belt and we ended up being first in line.  In a sense, we cut in line because there were about four others ahead of us who were sliding off to the first two and had entered the point of no return where to give up their positions in the queue would have meant relinquishing their time and effort up until that point.  Even though they would have reached their destination earlier, what could be said for their time and devotion?

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