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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Checkout (06/09/11)

TITLE: 8 Items or less.
By Gerry Depuit



It usually starts with the best of intentions.
A reasonably well adjusted, rational male ventures to the supermarket for some bread, milk and a chocolate fix.

Having parked my car in the crowded car park I confidently wander into the modern trade store and happily select my items and progress to the checkout....the bastion of capitalism where we trade our money for goods purchased.

But wait, this is a country town. I often meet someone I know or who has an unbridled desire to know all things pertaining to my family’s health, wealth and state of mind.

After a short, pleasant chat, it has been established that all is good and on an even keel. During this brief interlude we have also solved a few major political issues, discussed the state of primary production including fertilizer ratios and anticipated harvest revenues and the state of our respective football teams.


I find myself in the queue at the checkout, having chosen wisely by joining the line-up which is herded into a lane with a flashing red light and a tempting illuminated sign declaring,


All things rational disappear and a strange cultural upheaval takes place. Subconsciously I start to count the items other shoppers have presented for payment. I notice a huge guy with twelve in his trolley, he is smugly
confident that no-one will challenge him and turns to face us waiting mortals with a sneer as if to invite us to object to his hoard of goodies, we don’t.

Next I get rammed up the backside with a shopping trolley; I turn around to be confronted by a young mother, with less than eight items, who sincerely apologises for the driving antics of her five year old son who insists he is “Mark Webber”. The little man looks up at me with venom in his eyes and gives the trolley another determined shove to ensure he has reached a dead end, he has, in
more ways than one. Mother has been distracted by a magazine with movie star headlines and doesn’t seem to care that her precious off-spring is jail bait.

My attention is once again focussed on the customers ahead of me and notice that Mr. Twelve items is being served, good riddance.

The next customer is an impeccably dressed lady with seven items and it takes no time to process her purchases, and then, total unbelief.

Her purchases come to a grand total of $14.87; she opens her purse with a huge display of credit cards which she studies intently before making a selection. Bingo, the selected card looks good, feels good and even smells good but she hesitates, is it the wrong colour? Is it the wrong account? Is this a top up card or a let fly card? Something is not quite right because after several moments of indecision the card is pensively placed back in her purse and a bright little pink number is proudly presented to the checkout operator. The young man smiles patiently, offcourse he would, it is company policy, and asks the lady to perform the ritual of activating the communication link between pink plastic and cyber space banking.

Great stuff, all the correct digital recognition sounds emanate from the array of data processing equipment and the customer has been cleared for take off, but she hasn’t quite finished. Two more credit cards are produced, “my daughter and sister,” she explains, “they need some cash”, and since express lane checkouts have evolved into mindless bank tellers the requested transactions are performed.

The urge to speak is overwhelming but I discover that my mouth has dried up and my tongue is glued to the roof of my mouth. I think it is called dehydration and I’m not feeling too clever.

The good news is that I’m now being served; I have my cash ready and have been advised to “have a nice day”. Supermarket staff are trained as counsellors because they realise that I was already having a pleasant day until I became their customer and they have been given the responsibility to reassure us and that they care for our wellbeing, and yes, “life is good”.

I have decided that 8 items or less shopping cheeses me off ,threatening my sanity. In future I will only venture into the supermarket world when I have at least 9 items on my shopping list.

“Dear Lord teach me patience”.

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This article has been read 353 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Bonnie Bowden 06/16/11
What a fun story. Very good use of descriptive phrases. I could really relate to the MC.
Nancy Bucca06/16/11
I like your comment about supermarket staff being trained as counsellors. It must be true in any store. (some do a better job than others).
Jan Ackerson 06/19/11
Your dry wit is entertaining, and this is a scenario that we can all relate to.

I was slightly startled by you use of the phrase 'jail bait', not usually applied to an unruly child. It's more often used to describe a seductive young teenaged girl.

All in all, a really fun read that I'm sure has caused many people to nod their heads in agreement.
Janice Fitzpatrick06/22/11
Have we been in the same store? Ha!:) Years ago, I had an elderly gentleman who kept deliberately banging into the back of my heels with his cart,in impatience. I think they still smart with the thought of it at times.:) Very clever writing. Humorous! I liked it alot.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/23/11
I love your slightly quirky but hilarious sense of humor. It takes great talent to make the story of standing in a line entertaining. You did a splendid job; I could easily picture it all.

I'm sure you noticed your typo offcourse instead of of course but I mention it because I think this is entertaining enough to submit to a magazine. My first thought was Reader's Digest's All in a Day's Work but it might need to be spruced up a but and shortened. You did a grand job on this piece.

Congratulations for ranking 6th in level one!