A helpful assistant manager was directing traffic to the checkout lines at the grocery store today and pointed me to the shortest line. I followed his direction, but my answering smile was rueful. I knew this was going to be an epic fail.
I considered telling him he might as well send me to the longest line they had in the place. It doesn’t matter which line I’m in; it never does. Whichever one I pick will turn out to be the slowest.
I am The Line Slayer.
Do you remember the story of Sleeping Beauty? Her parents did not invite the Evil Queen to baby Aurora’s christening. In return, the furious Queen cursed the infant.
It turns out my parents left the Evil Queen off the guest list for MY baptism, too. Legend has it that she still showed up at the shindig down at the Elks Lodge and cursed the adorable, infant me.
“Hear me well! I curse this child. For all eternity, whichever line she is in, that will become the longest, slowest line. I dub her The Line Slayer.” Her awful voice rang out. “And I’m going to toss in a near-fatal addiction to sweets, too, because I’m really ticked-off. C’mon, what’s it costing you here - $4 a plate, including the cake? It was just rude not to invite me.”
I’ve tried to outrun the evil curse; lord knows I’ve tried. Whenever I approach a line, I’m counting heads, carts or cars in front of me. I’m weighing the odds, playing the angles, plotting strategies. Whether on foot or on wheels, the story is the same. The curse follows me.
Today was no exception.
There was only one lady in line ahead of me, and she was already getting checked out when I wheeled up behind. All she had was:
3, 12 packs of Coke
3, 12 packs of Diet 7-Up
5 bottles of flavored water.
I thought, “I’ll be out of here in a jiffy!”
That’s the worst part of the curse; that I still allow myself to hope.
The Coke was on sale, but it wasn’t ringing up right. The cashier looked up the correct price in the sales flyer, backed out the old transaction and re-entered it manually.
The 7-Up rang up at full price, but the lady said that was supposed to be on sale, too. The cashier searched the sales flyer front to back, all the while looking suspiciously at the soda-lady, suspecting her of foul soda-price tampering. Soda-lady stood firm. The cashier sent the bag-boy back to the display to confirm the price. It was located, naturally, in the far back corner of the store. He came strolling back 10 minutes later to say yes, the sign DID say the 7-Up was on sale, but if you looked closely, it also said that only the regular was on sale, not the diet. Soda-lady didn’t really want it badly enough to pay full price, so it had to be cancelled out. A manager was summoned for this high-level transaction.
Next came the water. Soda-lady had a coupon for that, but it wouldn’t work. Both the cashier and the soda-lady examined the coupon with an intensity one would normally reserve for a treasure map to the Lost City of Atlantis. Turns out the coupon had expired last year.
Finally, all was done and it was time to pay. Soda-lady wasn’t very well versed with her new-fangled debit card. She swiped the card backwards, forwards and sideways before it finally took. The credit verifying company in New Delhi experienced a temporary cyber hiccup and the entire transaction disappeared. Soda-lady had to reswipe her card again, upside down and sideways, before it went through.
Then, halleluiah – it was finished!
All the while this was going on, soda-lady and the cashier kept up a running commentary about an aide who worked at a local nursing home. Wasn’t it a shame about how bad she was, and “do you know what I heard about her?” The cashier relayed interesting tidbits about the despised nurses aide long after the transaction had been completed, holding on to the receipt and gesturing with it for emphasis.
By this time, the box of low-fat fudgecicles I was buying had melted and formed a brown river running down the conveyor belt. The fudge river swirled around my now-wilted spinach. I started thinking about abstract art and water pollution.
I snapped out of my reverie (really more of a trance by now) when soda-lady pushed her cart away from the register. She looked back apologetically at me, shrugged and said “Sorry!”
“No, no – it’s not your fault” I said earnestly. “It doesn’t matter which line I choose, it always ends up to be the one with the slowest, most incompetent cashier, the most complicated orders and the most clueless customers.”
“It’s not you, it’s me.” I finished up, glad I could relieve her mind. “I’m cursed!”
For some reason both the cashier and the soda-lady looked ticked off. I guess that’s just part of the curse of being me; The Line Slayer.