Merry Christmas with a sharp edge

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 2, 2010

Usually, I’m not a highly agitated, mean gal. Usually.

But, put me in a waiting line behind folks that don’t have the slightest notion about line etiquette and I turn into a real rascal.

I can’t be proud of the way I acted on several occasions-in-waiting over the holidays. But sometimes folks just bring out the ugly in me.

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On Christmas Eve eve, I was filled with holiday cheer when I entered the value store. The last little bit of cheer was oozing out of me when I left.

In front of me in the checkout were two women with one buggy and three orders. The women had purchased 666 items that were less than two centimeters in size and had them precariously balanced two feet above the buggy’s upper limits. They all had to be sorted into yours, mine and hers.

“Nooo, that’s mine!”

“Wait. Here’s something else of yours!”

Ten minutes later, the first to pay wrote a check and balanced her checkbook while the line grew longer and longer.

At long last, the second woman’s order was “rung up” but “Ooooh, I forgot toothpaste” and she made a beeline across the store and came back with a tube of toothpaste, a can of hairspray and a stick of deodorant. “I got a couple of other things.”

By this time the line had stretched to the back of the store so a second cashier appeared.

“I’ll take somebody over here” and the back of the line whipped over to the other checkout.

The second woman paid for her mountain of items and then had to pay separately for 16 items she had picked up for her daughter who had just had a baby. “Her second. A girl.

That makes two girls. They wanted a boy so bad. Her husband has three sisters and he wanted a boy but he won’t get one unless they adopt or he gets another wife. My daughter had her tubes tied. She doesn’t want any more children. She wants to go back to school and be a teacher. I don’t know why. Teachers have it rough….”

She was still talking as she loaded her buggy and pushed it out of the store.

“How are you?” the cashier asked. She shouldn’t have.

“Well, I don’t usually complain but I’ve been waiting behind those two women for about 25 minutes.” The cashier nodded. “So, when y’all opened the second register, the clerk should have said, ‘Next in line!’ not ‘I’ll take somebody over here.’

“Those folks in the back of the line have checked out, gone home and are eating supper and I’m still here in line. ‘Next in line’ that’s what you’re supposed to say. That’s waiting line etiquette.”

Christmas Eve, I was in a slow-moving line at the grocery store as shoppers quizzed the clerk, “How’s your mama?” “What y’all doin’ for Christmas?” “You got your dinner cooked yet?”

Oh, well. It was Christmas. What was a few minutes.

Finally, the lady in front of me unloaded her buggy, one item at the time and artfully arranged the items on the conveyor belt. She stood, with her purse locked on her arm, and watched as the clerk rang up the items, “$73.69.”

Only then, must the lady have realized that she was actually going to have to pay for her groceries. Seemingly irritated, she unlocked her purse from her arm, opened it and dived in after her billfold.

She had money in several compartments and finally counted out three 20-dollar bills, a10 and three ones. Then she searched her purse for the change.

“I just drop my change in the bottom of the purse,” she said and finally scratched up two quarters. “Now, I know I’ve got …” She rummaged around and found a dime and two nickels. “That’s too much. I’ve got some pennies in here somewhere. I don’t know… I like to give the right change. You like to get the right change don’t you?”

The clerk shrugged.

“Well, I don’t have but three pennies,” she said after removing everything from her purse. “Just take the nickel. Now, don’t I get a penny back? Tell your mama I asked about her.”

I wanted to kick her in the buggy.

The day after Christmas, I “drove through” to get breakfast. After a long wait getting to the pickup window, the friendly-impaired employee said, “Just pull up and I’ll bring out the right change.”

“Why she had to “bring it out,” she didn’t say. I didn’t ask. I just pulled up. Five minutes later, she came to the car with the right change.

“It will be about two minutes on your hash browns.”

After five more minutes, she returned. “It’ll be a few more minutes on your bacon and cheese biscuit.

“I thought I was waiting on hash browns?”

She turned on her heels.

Eight minutes later she returned with the bacon and cheese biscuit to eat with the cold potatoes.

“I’ve been waiting 20 minutes now so I’m not ever pulling up again,” I told her. “

From now on, I’ll sit at the window until my order’s ready.”

I don’t know what she said as she walked away. But I don’t think it was “Merry Christmas.”

Jaine Treadwell is features editor for The Messenger. She can be reached at