I want to start this post by saying that I know that there are people with anxiety and other issues that make every day tasks very difficult. I also want to say that I know that the majority of us do not have those issues but still find many every day tasks and interactions uncomfortable and difficult, but more in a “wow I need to adult the fuck up and just do this” kind of way. I want you to know that I know that there are definitely differences between these two groups of people, and I also want you to understand that I am addressing the second group here, and I apologize for not including everyone in this post, but if I included everyone, someone would get offended and I don’t want to offend anyone. So is that out of the way? You know that I know that some people really would find this situation cripplingly difficult, and I have great sympathy for them but I am not talking about them. Okay. Okay. We’re all set.
So here’s a thing that happens that I think is THE ABSOLUTE WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN. That’s not entirely true, not in, like, the grand scheme of the world, but in that moment, there is not a worse thing that could happen.
So you’re at the grocery store, right, and you get all your stuff – maybe a lot of stuff or maybe not a lot – I don’t think that has anything to do with when this sort of thing happens but I’ve never worked at a grocery store, so I can’t say. Maybe there’s some kind of item number vs time taken to scan math that goes into this, but I assume they cover that in grocery store training. You’ve got your stuff and you find an acceptable line that is not too long for the amount of time you’ve got available, and the cashier is there cashiering and the light is on so you get in the line and put your stuff on the belt or just hold it if you’re hitting up the $1.25 Reeses pumpkin things my Exchange had on all the registers for a week or so before they SOLD OUT ENTIRELY and I had to buy regular circle peanut butter cups, which, don’t get me wrong, I totally love, but you have to admit that with the different shapes come different pleasing texture differences and sometimes a lady wants a pumpkin.
You’re in the line and you’re at the end of the line, and the cashier turns her light off. Now, you’re already in the line so you’re fine and you don’t have to go anywhere else, unless the cashier tells you that you have to, in which case you probably just should, definitely if you only have an item or two, though I’d be super annoyed if I had already unloaded a full cart onto the belt and was told I had to move, but I’m pretty sure that’s such a rare occurrence – it’s never happened to me – that you could probably assume there was some kind of cashier emergency or even personal emergency that the cashier must attend to, and soothe your annoyance by reminding yourself of that.
But in this situation, the cashier doesn’t tell you to go somewhere else. You’re already there so you’re fine. Instead, she tells you, “you’re my last customer, ok?” Why would she have to tell me that? I’m not a total asshole or anything, but I have to say, I really do not care what you do and with who after our personal transaction is finished. I don’t need to know that I’m the last one. So you know why she is telling me?
BECAUSE IT IS NOW MY RESPONSIBILITY TO INFORM ANYONE WHO COMES BEHIND ME THAT THEY CANNOT JOIN MY LINE.
Now instead of zoning out looking at the magazines and evaluating all the shapes that chocolate and peanut butter come in for possible pleasing texture differences, I have to stand there ALL STIFF and on HIGH ALERT thinking about nothing but the desperate hope that people will be decent people and not approach a checkout with the light off, even though you know full well there are people who will see that the light is off but also see that I’m standing there and decide they can jump onto the end of the line, even though we all know the universal lights off signal means that the person already in line is the LAST PERSON and you are definitely trying to cheat the system while FULLY AWARE that you are doing it.
So that’s what makes it the worst, because you’ve been told that you’re the last, and by telling you that, the cashier is letting you know that she kind of expects you to play End of the Line Police, but her light is out, so in theory no one should be getting in the line and you should be saved from having a 2.5 second mildly awkward in a non-consequential way conversation with an absolute stranger, EXCEPT for the fact that of the two kinds of people who will get in line behind you anyway, one will be clueless and just have not seen the light off and apologize and walk away, and the OTHER kind will certainly have seen the light off but figured they could sneak onto the end of the line like they’ve cracked the big grocery store code that no one else knows about. AND THAT IS THE PERSON YOU WILL HAVE TO DEAL WITH.
To sum up, my favorite cashiers are the ones that will say, “I’m closed now but 3 is open” over your shoulder WITHOUT BRINGING YOU INTO THE SYSTEM AT ALL.