There have been quite a few benefits to living in this cheap fossil fuel age that has turned the corner towards collapse, but some of these societal betterments still face their holdouts. “Self-serve” aisles in grocery stores have turned a cheerless chore into a cheerless chore, but there is at at least one unalloyed plus – there is no waiting behind advanced-aged women balancing their checkbooks with meticulous, oblivious Yankee dedication to the fine art of wasting others’ time.
If indeed at the precipitous moment before our deaths our entire life history unfolds on super-super fast forward to touch on every last public encounter, the mind should get ready for these intense infinitesimal recrudescences of moments past. To be accurate, there will be roughly 413 solid lifetime encounters of non-moving lines in grocery store checkout lines behind checkbook-ledger wielding mothers and grandmothers determined to do precise, to-the-last-spare-cents family budget accounting while others observe in mute feignments of disinterest masking seethe and dislike. Since this is the computer age, where the fifth wall between evil transnational corporation and slave-drudge has come down to make every “consumer” a self-policing accountant/cop privy to the innermost up-to-the microsecond keystroke of personal credit and personal debit, these elderly women who are still performing public checkbook balancing in public grocery lines are like the Japanese soldiers who fought on for decades in remote island caves, not knowing that the war was long, long over.
Women, elders, countryfolk – there is no need to waste your time, the times of the various peoples behind you, or test your accounting skills. This is all available at the cost of your sanity at your home computer of phone of choice. Throw away those ledgers with the neat, A- penmanship that can account for every nickel-and-dime purchase made on that account, not counting for all the purchases made by the anti-checkbook balancing male other side of the account. No need to look in those tiny purses left over from the Ming Dynasty for those three cents that will complete the purchase without coinage resort, while those behind you silently mouth the words together in communal agony: “Get a move on, sister! Some of has lives we need to get to. Take the change! Do the accounting at home!”
What is the record for the non-pranking amount of time a woman of a certain age has held up the line while doing an error-marred fumblethon over properly entering the $23.17 check she wrote to cover the mostly cat food bill? Grocery store managers, who count every stalled line as a 10% loss in future revenue from the harried, standstill commuter consumers forced to peek around People Magazine perusals at Grandma and her self-talking tremulous balancing acts, privately grumble about legendary five-minute wait times.
“The Consumer is King” is obviously an erroneous truism – The Consumer is Queen, and a mighty elderly, debilitated one at that. Who among the grocery store manager line would be willing to step in to urge the Consumer Queen to trust that the bank will see to it that every grocery purchase made by the Queen will be duly and automatically noted and subtracted correctly by the huge bank of constantly whirring computer servers? Trust, don’t verify – the money will be there, most likely, so put away the folded book of tiny lines and shadow. Keep the line moving – who cares if you bounce a few checks and are forced into public shame and penury and favorite grocery-store exile? There’s always 7-11 and shoplifting if that were to occur.