Outrage on the Express Line

When the woman removed the can of Draino from her shopping cart my blood boiled. She had purchased 11 items. The sign above the register clearly stated, “Express Lane Eight Items Only.” Even if I accepted the three cans of corn niblets as one item, she was two items over the limit.

I stared at the nape of her neck, her left ear, and her left cheek. I stared at the store clerk. I couldn’t stare hard enough to satisfy my rage. My eyes were shouting, but no one was listening to them.

I wanted to call everything to a halt. I thought of pulling the plug on the store computer cash register. Didn’t the clerk see the injustice of it? The letters on the sign were printed in bold, bright red paint. The message was unmistakable: “Express Lane Eight Items Only.”

In my desperation I sought some explanation for her callousness. I needed a way to excuse her behavior. She was not aged, nor did she seem crazed. Perhaps she was on her way to the hospital, or perhaps she left several unattended infants at home in front of a defective kerosene heater. There had to be a reason for her utter disregard of the social order.

Why was I so helpless? I couldn’t speak. My tongue curled in my mouth, and my clenched jaw muscles ached. The screams were just behind my lips. The curses recirculated from my mouth to my brain and back again.

I turned to look at the woman behind me. She smiled politely, but she couldn’t , or worse, she wouldn’t help. Maybe she didn’t notice the felony,. I tried to convey my torment with my face, but words were needed and I couldn’t produce any. I thought of mumbling to myself, just loud enough to be heard but not enough to be seen as hostile or rude. I think I did say, damn, or darn it, or some derivative. Whatever I did say, was the most feeble expression I could muster.

The woman was finished. She paid her bill, grabbed her bags and left the store.

I put my quart of milk on the counter and said, “boy, oh boy.” Another enfeebled exclamation. The clerk looked right through me. She asked for my ninety-eight cents, and proceeded to package my milk. I left the store and headed for my car with my feelings were still under siege.

Suddenly, I turned and ran back to the store. I needed revenge. I rushed to the managers booth. I told him that I had just been on the Express Lane and that I needed to report a…a what??? What was I to report? An outrage? A lewd act? A stupidity – a what? The culprit was gone. Only the clerk could be faulted. Did I want to turn the clerk in? I told the manager that in addition to the sign he now had over the Express Lane, he ought to list the punishments for violating the Express Lane rule. He looked at me as if I was crazy. He asked me what I meant. The moment of truth. I couldn’t tell him – I just couldn’t.

I told him that I would call with some suggestions. I felt so awkward – so childish. Why didn’t I go to the 7-11 in the first place.




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