Globe Syndicate 

for release Friday February 13, 2004 

Another Way

 by Melodie Davis

 Things You Can Learn Standing In The Supermarket Check Out Line

I watched a suspenseful scene unfold at the supermarket recently. A neat, organized, pleasant woman in her 50’s was checking out a cart full of groceries. She was finishing up her transaction when the clerk said politely, “You didn’t pay me yet.”

“Well, yes I did,” said the woman, putting her billfold into her pocketbook. “I wrote the check and gave it to you.”

“No, I don’t have anything from you,” said the clerk, firmly.

“Well, I know I gave it to you,” said the woman, a little huffily. I looked away. Was there going to be a scene between these two perfectly nice, respectable women? I didn’t want to see anything ugly.

The young clerk, probably no more than 18, stood her ground. It takes guts for a teen to stand up to an older, reasonable, professional looking person.

“Well, I don’t have anything,” the clerk said motioning to her drawer. At least the transaction in question didn’t involve cash.

Finally, the customer, more or less to prove that she was right to the younger woman, opened her purse back up, opened her check book saying, “See…” and then stopped in mid jaw drop.

“Oh and there it is,” she said of her check still attached to her checkbook. Quickly trying to save face, she murmured something like “And now it is time for me to go home. Too long of day.”

What happens when you absolutely positively know you’re right, but you’re not?

Now I’ve forgotten to give a check to a clerk, too, but am not usually as sure of myself as the above woman. I know I’m all too prone to forget or miss things.

There are lots of other things you can learn about life while standing in line at the check out.

1. Never dig yourself in a corner arguing with a clerk. The clerk, contrary to the old retail slogan, is always right. Even if she is humble about it, you will be the one to come out looking like the buffoon.

2. Of course you know that if you change lanes, the line you move to will end up moving slower. So the lesson is to just never change lanes.

3. Never believe what you read in the tabloid headlines, but also do not envy stars and celebrities. Do you really want to end up being chased, hounded and photographed during your worst moments with those photos plastered at every supermarket check out line?

4. Never let your kids accompany you through the check out line. If it is unavoidable, blindfold and gag them. 

5. Never be impatient with the elderly woman counting out 19 pennies in change while five people stew in line: someone else is probably in line behind your own mother.

6. Never judge another customer by the beer or tobacco they buy. Never calculate how much money you save by not indulging in beer or chewing tobacco. The person in line behind you will thereby be calculating how much money they save by not indulging in coffee and chewing gum.

7. If you do buy wine or anything requiring “carding” don’t bother feeling vain when a clerk asks for your I.D. and you’re actually 49.  It’s their job.

8. Never use the ATM/Debit/Credit card machine unless you can zip through the transaction like a 20-something. (I can’t, and rarely do unless it is absolutely necessary. Why did they start making us do the clerk’s job anyway?)

9. Never, try to go through an eight-item line with nine items in your basket. The line police will glare holes through your being.

10. Never allow a newspaper columnist to get in line behind you because your confrontation with the clerk may end up verbatim in the daily paper.

            And you thought standing in the check out line was a waste of time! You can get a whole education! Next time you’re in line at the supermarket, thank God for the marvelous check out line.

            Oh, and by the way, there’s still time to leave the line and run back and pick up a bouquet, card or special treat for the one you love. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with this column filled with little nothings!

 Have you learned things in line at the supermarket? Send your stories to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: 

You can also visit Another Way on the Web at 

Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.

 NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 727 words; end material = 105 words

 We would appreciate it if you would include the "Globe Syndicate" bug at the end of the column.


©2004 by Globe Syndicate, all rights reserved.

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