May 8, 2006

A "Fister" Full Of Checks

I’m standing in a grocery checkout line confronted, face-to-face, actually face to side-of-head, by of one of the things I will definitely abolish when I become Supreme Commander. Things annoy me. Big things, little things. Things, that if I given absolute power, I would outlaw. I might even incarcerate the offender. So, I'm named Supreme Commander look out! The woman two people ahead of me in the checkout line is writing a check. She is among the last shoppers in the universe still writing checks at the grocery store. We have debit cards, credit cards or God forbid cash, but there she stands, pen in hand. She is as out of place as if she was wearing arm garters and a green eyeshade. She is buying the biggest bottle of vodka in the store, you know the one with its own handle, and several boxes of frozen stuff that is eaten by people old enough to get social security. Seniors, at the local supermarket, purchase most of the vodka sold in this country. This is a dirty little secret AARP keeps to it self. Forget their claims that cash-strapped seniors choose between their prescription drugs and food. It is really either prescriptions or booze. Don’t believe me? Stake out a grocery register for an afternoon yourself. You have seen this shopper. She’s about 70 or 75 years old and didn’t actually start writing checks until she was in her forties, not quite sure this check-writing thing was here to stay. She will be the last person on earth to give it up. Change does not trip lightly into her world. When checks were serious business and only used through the mail, she trundled down to the drug store to settle up the utilities in person, with cash. An earlier generation of impatient guys tapped their collective feet behind this woman while she counted out $7.48 for the gas bill. I can hear the voice saying, “..forty, forty one, forty two…that’s forty eight.” It is not only that she is writing a check that bugs me; it is the check-writing process she is using. First she stares hawk-like at the register display. One of the tenets she holds is that unless watched closely, grocery cashiers will double scan the frozen Brussel Sprouts and pocket the excess. So she watches. Once she is satisfied that she has kept the devious checker at bay, she opens the checkbook. But before the check can be written, she must enter the amount in her register. Otherwise, she may forget. And hey, as long as a gal is entering the amount she may as well do the math, right? Those ten folks behind her can just wait a darn minute. At last the moment of truth has arrive, she is ready to write...very, very s-l-o-w-l-y. Back in Mrs. Fitzgerald's “business course” she learned that legibility is one of the basics of check writing. Mrs. Fitzgerald always warned that a sloppy check could easily be misread by the folks at the bank and then look out, you'll have mayhem on your hands! She rips the check out carefully and passes it over. Think we’re done here? Not a chance. The cashier runs the check through that scanner thing and turns to our gal and says, “Mrs. Baker do you have your ID?” She might as well as asked her if she was a hooker. “Well, this is unusual. I come in here every several times a week and no one ever asks me for my ID,” she says. “Gosh hon,” says Dotty, the cashier, “this darn register tells us when we have to ask. You know these computers. Who can figure them out?” “It seems odd to me”, she says, but grudgingly forks over her license. Dotty cheerfully tells her she should get a frequent shopper card so she never has to produce ID. This lanches her into a rant about giving the store people her personal information to put into their systems and do God knows what with. No way, no how, don't ask, thank you, no.! Swiping a sideways glance she reminds the disinterested kid bagging to put the Brussel Sprouts in a separate bag from the “fister” of vodka. By gosh if this checker is going to treat her like a criminal, then she is going to get back at someone. At last both bags safely in her cart she heads off. The line quickly moves, I pay and walk off. As I pass the “Courtesy Center” Ben, the front-end manager, is getting an earful while the old gal buys Lotto tickets for all the older folks on her cul-de-sac. I would just refund her money and tell her to get out and stay out. But then again, I would be out of business within my first week.

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