Is it Me or is it Hot in Line at the Grocery Store

By Russ Ward

When Dante penned his masterpiece, Inferno, he missed one of the punishments that mankind must endure for living a sinful life on Earth. After the corrupt, immortal soul passes through the gates of Hell one is sure to find that - standing in the checkout line at the grocery store is one of the first punishments that must be suffered.

We have all been there, standing somewhere behind the coupon lady, the guy fiddling around for exact change or the older woman who writes checks slower than J.K Rowling writes Harry Potter novels; topped off by a gum snapping cashier who doesn’t care and is in no particular hurry. According to Dante, the sign on the gates of Hades reads, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." If that doesn’t describe the line at the grocery store, I don’t know what does.

This does not mean that shopping isn’t enjoyable. I rather like traveling the aisles, seeking adventure around each end cap, smiling at passing shoppers, looking for bargains or a better dish washing detergent. I am rather fond of the impossible task of deciding what cereal to buy or comparing prices on loaves of bread. But, all good things must come to an end and eventually we must all enter “The Line”.

In “The Line,” smiles disappear, babies cry and the world starts spinning slower. “The Line” is devoid of joy and happiness where we wrestle with emotions like anger, confusion and boredom. “The Line” has destroyed our culture as I am convinced that “The Line” is the only reasonable explanation for the “Star” or “People” magazines selling at all. After five minutes in “The Line,” even I am tempted by the headlines about Aliens Visiting the White House and 101 Beauty Tips and I am a rationally minded, middle-aged man.

“The Line” is responsible for ruining people’s health as they impulse buy Snickers, Mountain Dews and Circus Peanuts. And “The Line” promotes poor parenting skills as desperate moms placate whining children by plying them with every form of processed sugar imaginable. Remember moms, just because M&Ms look like vitamins doesn’t mean they are vitamins.

“The Line” is our fate and our destiny. We think we can fool it by picking the short one or the one marked “Ten Items or Less”, but we are just deluding ourselves. We do not control the outcome any more than the person shaking the Magic 8 Ball controls its predictions. Our die is cast when it is time to check out. “The Line” measures us all and doles out punishment to all who dare enter.

But there is hope. New technology in the form of upgraded POS systems can speed the checkout time quickly and efficiently saving us from the eternity that we would otherwise face. With these new advances, the world may survive, the sun may rise and birds may once again sing. “The Line” may never be Heaven on Earth but at least it will be less like Dante’s Inferno.