Got a lot of shopping to do this holiday season? Unless you’re doing everything online, you might have to battle heavy traffic and crowded stores. I can’t help you much there. But if you fear getting stuck in line with the slowest cashier in existence, let me put your mind at ease.
Turns out the slowest cashier — and this is counting the ones who carved receipts on stone tablets — works at the Target near my house. Her name is Lillian.
Let me take you back to the day I first met Lillian. It was way back when we were still experiencing high temperatures here in Phoenix.
You know. A week ago.
I stopped at Target for a few things and as I made my way through the frozen food aisle, I saw it: THE BEST ice cream was on sale!
(I’m not going to say the brand name, since if I’m going to shill for a company they better darn well pay me for it.)
Anyway, I selected the perfect carton — frozen really, really hard — because when you live in a warm climate, it’s imperative you start with a solid block of ice cream or it might not survive the trip home.
I make my way up front and there I’m met with a first world problem to beat all first world problems (as if soft ice cream wasn’t tragic enough): which checkout lane will give me the speediest exit?
Will it be lane 12 (one customer with a full cart), or lane 14 (two customers with fewer items each)?
Agonizing over it for all of 10 seconds, I opt for lane 14. The cashier in lane 12 was chewing gum. (I don’t have to explain that, do I?)
That’s when I made my fatal error: I unloaded all my items onto the conveyor belt.
Man, what a rookie mistake! Never put all your items on the conveyor belt until you’re certain – positively certain – that your lane is flowing at maximum efficiency.
Customer number one – man with many tattoos – his bag of oranges won’t ring up. After many attempts, Lillian hands the bag to him.
“Can you read the numbers? They’re too small for me.”
“What? Oh, okay … let’s see … 3-4-1-”
“Yeah, 4. 3-4-1-8-5-1-1-0-3.”
She taps several keys. “Doesn’t work.”
Tattoo Man shrugs, then yells at his son to stand up.
“Well, how much is it? Do you remember? I’ll just key it in.”
“I don’t know. 2.99?”
“Yeah, 3.99. Whatever. I don’t care. Damnit Jason, put that back!”
Customer number 2 – Stressed Mom with three kids – is next. Her Kitty Condo Scratching Post rings up 29.99. This causes a lengthy discussion, as Stressed Mom is certain it was 17.99.
“I wouldn’t buy it if it was 29.99,” she says.
Lillian calls for assistance. This brings Gum Chewer over, because she’s done with her customer. (Sigh.) They call for a price check. (Double sigh.)
As we wait for Jason to report back, Stressed Mom alternates between explaining her certainty of the price and yelling at her kids.
Several minutes pass, Jason gives the verdict. There is no condo in Kitty’s future.
Except Gum Chewer is asking Lillian when she wants her break. Does she want it now, or later when Adrian is here? Lillian gives this a great deal of thought. After a lengthy pause, during which none of my items are scanned because that would involve doing two things at once, Lillian decides to wait for Adrian.
“Good,” smacks Gum Chewer. “Adrian might be the youngest one here, but she replaces two of us, easy.”
She walks away and Lillian turns to me. “Well, that’s a switch!” she says.
I have no idea what this means, but I say, “Yeah.” My ice cream is sweating heavily by this point.
“It’s not every day you hear something like that.”
“I mean, back when I worked in Kohl’s — that was nine years ago… no, make that 10… let’s see, we just moved from Indiana… yeah, it would have been 10–”
I push my ice cream closer to the scanner, hoping she’ll take the hint.
“There was this girl, young skinny thing, standing by her counter. Not doing a blame thing. So I said, you can get more bags for under the counters. Because you know, we were running low.”
I bet I could scan everything and bag them from my side. I wonder if she’d notice?
“But you know what she said? She said, ‘They don’t pay me enough for that.’ That’s what she said!”
“Yeah,” I say, watching a puddle form under the ice cream. Lillian has her hand on it now. I’m hopeful a scan is in its future.
“Young people nowadays, they won’t do any more work than they have to. It’s not like when I was young, let me tell you.”
WE HAVE A SCAN!
“I remember my first job… it was when I was 12… back then, they started you young… I went to the local grocery store – this was in Michigan, that’s where I grew up – anyway, I went to the grocery store and–”
I left the store much, much later, knowing far more about my cashier than any customer has a right to know.
And my ice cream sundae was soupy.
Life is rough.
Here’s hoping your holiday shopping goes much, much faster. And may all your ice cream sundaes be right.