I don’t wait for the refrigerator or pantry to go completely bare, or do I keep it stocked full of goods. This makes for quick and simple shopping that people in big cities with no cars enjoy, without the humiliation of schlepping plastic bags for more than two blocks. By American standards this is impractical, but I happen to like the notion that the grocery store will host rotted meat and moldy vegetables rather than have them overstay their welcome in my refrigerator.
I was on one of my quick trips, thinking of the things I don’t have for a simple meal: Korean spiced pork ribs, sesame cabbage slaw, and chocolate ice cream. This was going to be a simple, with the exception of the cabbage, since it doesn’t have a bar code on it. Because of the turn over and the price I rarely by produce in the grocery store, but given the relative convenience of one-stop-shopping I couldn’t turn it down. All of my items fit in a hand basket, but because of the damn cabbage, I didn’t want to use the self-checkout lane. Though the process is “self driven” when produce is placed on a scale it is also put in front of a camera where a clerk 5 yards away tries to assess its phyla and looks up the PLU code through the plastic bag.
- Inevitably, you hear a disembodied voice asking “What is it?”
- You reply with “It’s an onion”, or “Buddha’s hand ginger”.
Time passes while the PLU code is looked up, and you wonder why you ever stepped foot in the self-checkout lane with an unmarked item. One would never willingly buy condoms, enema, or suppositories without a price tag clearly marked or the bar code obscured.
I chose a cashier-attended checkout lane. The cashier was a new face, so I knew I was in for a bit of a wait. The woman in front of me had successfully scanned mints, cookies, and soymilk (a sure sign of a troublemaker, buying soy milk that isn’t vacuum-sealed). There were two items left, a 24-pack of bottled water and… lettuce. The red-leaf blush bibb lettuce was scanning in at $2.99 a pound. Obviously nobody being a food expert in the immediate area, the customer was confident in saying that the PLU code was incorrect. The codes for hydroponic, organic, Amish, fetish, and oompah-loompa lettuce and they were all $2.99 a pound. Visibly shaken, the customer asked to see the book of PLU codes. She stood back and cocked her head up so she didn’t have to put on glasses. “How about… bibb. Did you try that? Or maybe it’s the Boston bibb.”
This woman needed to die right then and there. It’s one thing to argue the price of something you feel is unfair. It’s absolutely ridiculous to argue the price of something you don’t know about. This woman would be laughed off a lot of a foreign car lot if she said that the price of a luxury sedan should be the price of a domestic sub-compact car.
I stared at this woman with hatred. She knew that she was holding up the line and tried to diffuse the situation by accepting the price and a modest laughter. Her jovial “ha ha ha, isn’t the universe funny like that” attitude came crashing down after the cashier said they would require an override to complete her order. Since the lettuce was voided so many times, it had triggered a lock on her order requiring a manager to assess the voided objects. The customer sighed and assumed a posture of annoyance. I glanced over at other checkout lanes and saw some people finishing up their business and happily walking out the door. I wished those people harm too, and as I was starting my incantation of death to these people, the woman in front of me had the nerve to say; “You know, I was supposed to pick up my husband like 15 minutes ago.”
This statement of this woman’s agenda tried to make her seem important and rushed. To the cashier, the bagger, and the three other people behind me this statement meant that I could have first stab at her.