How long have I been meandering through this market? I look down into my grocery basket. I look up at the sign at the checkout line I’m in. “10 items or less.” Do I have more? Oh crap, I might have more. Grammatically speaking, less refers to singular mass nouns – a general term, as fewer refers to actual items you can count. So, am I going to hold this grammatically incorrect sign to mean that “less” means I don’t need to count my items? Hmm. Were it to say 10 items or “fewer”, and someone actually counted my items, would I have a serious problem? Hmm. No. I am, in fact, okay with them using ‘less’ instead of ‘fewer’. It does not roll off my tongue to say ’10 items or fewer’. Besides, there are only 3 lines open. The other two lanes have people who are shopping for some apocalyptic party or have some disorder akin to OCD–where they absolutely must buy insane quantities of whatever’s on sale. Whatever the case may be, here I stand, in an increasingly long line of people holding baskets of, or just holding, “10 items or less”. I start counting. Are four of the same item, ONE or FOUR? A quandary I find myself in too often. You’d think I would ask someone. The cashier has a void. Perfect. Now, a man, carrying a basket in one hand, and a single item in his other walks up to me. “Ma’am, I only have the three items and I’m really in a hurry. Do you mind if I cut in front of you?” Well, I have already been here for a while, and I am now sweating the number of items I have, and whether I will be caught by the “market police”. “Well, I think I have more than the 10 items, so…” He looks at me as if I had more than 10 heads and he clearly doesn’t care, so I oblige. Now, there is one person, being rung up, one person with their seven items on the conveyor belt—I counted, no doubles—and Mr. ‘I’m in hurry’ in front of me.
I’m someone who makes up stories about people in line at the market based on their purchases. It’s fun and it’s something to do while you wait. I do this because when I had a cat, and would get off the train late from work, I would stop by the market on my way home. I am pretty sure I was being judged when I plopped down a rotisserie chicken, 6 cans of cat food, a packet of cat treats, frozen brussels sprouts and a pint of ice cream. Yes, that little array screams sad, single woman, with cats… I know. I could hear the silent pity. Now it is I who wield the title of Judgy McJudgerson. Let’s see. The person now being rung-up has a very large container of greek yogurt, toilet paper, pretzels, soy milk, organic eggs, tampons and the current issue of US magazine. That, my friends, sounds like a party! Actually, I am betting single woman, no date on this Friday night. I could be wrong. It’s actually not as easy to ‘read’ people in the express lane. The big cart filled to the brim is where the fun is at. You can tell if they have children or pets, or both. You can tell which they love more. 😉 You can tell if they are entertaining, or having a barbecue. You can tell if they like odd foods, and then you wonder if you should try them. I imagine as often as I am in my market, that my regular cashiers can likely spin quite the tale about me based on the weird and nonsensical cravings I accommodate. Oh well, I will not be deterred.
Finally, the manager has corrected the voided item, the cashier has rung up Ms. ‘got no plans tonight’, and now it’s Mr. ‘I’m in a hurry’. He’s an easy read. A gallon of milk, box of cookies, and that 12 pack of beer pretty much screams you’re watching the kids tonight. It’s not judgmental, by the way, it is merely observatory. I observe, I draw unsubstantiated conclusions, silently narrate my little story, and move on, feeling awesome about myself. On this very special—meaning unusual—day, I have a cart with fresh salmon, asparagus, a couple of tomatoes, an avocado, container of strawberry’s, multi-grain English muffins, jar of peanut butter and 4 different flavors of bottled water. (That’s either eight or eleven items.) I have long since placed it on the floor, since my eternal wait in this line has somehow made the basket heavier. I lift it up to unload my items, and feel especially proud of my healthy choices—and equally glad I bought the snack foods yesterday. I have my small-talk conversation with my always pleasant cashier—discuss the weather and the increasing daylight. I pay with my debit card. As he assists me in bagging my few items I look back at how long the line has gotten. Part of me is curious what that really good-looking guy has in his cart… but not today. Today—right now—I am going home to throw these items in the fridge and have the snacks I bought yesterday. I’m exhausted. 🙂
Have a great day, grocery shoppers!