|From Dictionary for Kids|
As if the nickels and dimes—never mind pennies—even matter.
This evening, we were making a simple purchase of wine and beer. We got in a line with two people ahead of us: perfect! Only, it turned out both people ahead of us were splitting their orders: one bought a single box of Tampax, after a larger hundred-plus-dollar order; the other had a stack of about ten Hershey's milk chocolate bars, as well as half a dozen miscellaneous items. In effect, two people in line became four.
Sure, sure, the doubling of transactions didn't add all that much time to the process—maybe three minutes (the average time for finishing a transaction is between 40 and 60 seconds, depending on the chattiness of the checker—though the new chip readers have slowed things down, so that estimate is no doubt optimistic). But when I choose a line to get in, I do it based on the amount of merchandise on the conveyor belt as well as the number of transactions. I see two people, I see two transactions. It's a science and an art!
I find, for example, that one very large order gets processed more quickly than, say, four orders in the 15 Items or Fewer line—so I'll generally choose a conveyor belt full with one order over four segregated small orders.
And let me just mention: the box of Tampax got pulled out as an "extra order" after the fact. Grr.
Ironically, as I was waiting to collect our items, I noticed that the man behind me—with two cartons of ice cream and one big box of soft drinks—had separated the ice cream and soft drinks into two orders. I guess he learned something new standing in that line. Grrrrr.
(I wrote about my other pet peeve—people who don't use their turn signals (grrrrrrrrrrr)—here. At the end of that post, I mentioned that I have "another pet peeve, probably idiosyncratic." I can't be sure that I was referring to this issue of supermarket lines, but at the moment, I can't think of anything else that peeves me more.)
Finally, in looking for graphics to illustrate this post I ran into this mathematical thing called "queuing theory," which posits that a single line to three cashiers will almost always be faster than three separate lines. The self-checkout stations work that way—but you can't buy alcohol at self-checkout. So tonight we were forced to use a single line. And yeah, I was (again) reminded of my second pet peeve—and of my own personal bad line karma. Which I probably ought to just accept. And thank my lucky stars that most of my other personal karma is pretty darn sweet.
(Oh and, a little voice on my shoulder whispers, such situations could be the perfect opportunity to practice your Zen. Have you considered that?)