Where’s Einstein When You Need Him at the Grocery Checkout Line

Many years ago, Albert Einstein was attempting to explain the concept of the impenetrability of solid objects in the physical world.  He very eloquently, and in simple terms which anyone should be able to understand, stated it this way:

No two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.

One would think that this reality would be intuitively obvious to just about everyone, but I have learned without question that there are those who believe that the laws of theoretical physics simply do not apply in the grocery store checkout line. I know this through direct observation having had the misfortune of engaging two such skeptics within the past few weeks.

Let me set the scene for you.  One afternoon a few weeks ago, I had completed cruising the aisles at my local Publix, picking out everything that I needed.  The heavy work done, I proceeded with my full cart toward the front of the store. Arriving there, I scoped out the nearest open checkout line which didn’t already have someone queued up waiting for their turn to stimulate our nation’s economy.
Check out
Once in the line, I started unloading the items from my cart and placing them on the checkout line conveyor starting at the end nearest the clerk and working my way backward, filling up the empty conveyor as I went.

And it’s at this point that this otherwise simple and efficient process ground inexorably to a halt.

I reached into my cart, extracted a couple of cans of something, turned to place them on the conveyor belt only to find one of those bars used to separate purchases, behind which was stacked the next customer’s groceries.  The only problem was that I still had half a cart of groceries that I needed to place on to the conveyor.

The first time that I found myself at this impasse, I turned to the somewhat vacant looking woman standing at her cart in line behind me and politely suggested, “Pardon me, but I’m going to need some space to put the rest of my groceries.

She momentarily registered a confused expression, then paused for a moment before huffing, “Well, I’ve got to put my stuff somewhere! 

Quickly I deduced that she had probably cut class on the day that Einstein’s principle of the impenetrability of solid objects had been reviewed in Physics 101.  The realization that her stuff  had been quite content waiting in her cart for its turn to be placed on an empty conveyor had obviously never crossed her otherwise self-consumed and vacuous mind.

Forrest Gump was never more insightful than when he stated, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  And in this particular case I’m quite confident that Einstein would have been in lockstep with Forrest’s assessment.

At this point the conveyor moved forward about a foot leaving an open space directly behind her groceries.  In a somewhat theatrical fashion I looked from the empty space behind her groceries to the total absence of space where I need to place my purchases and then back again.

Immediately, it was obvious that my antagonist just wasn’t following the complexities of this situation, so I took my arm and swept her groceries back up the conveyor to make room for mine.  It only took two repetitions of this maneuver in order for me to finish unloading my groceries.

Sadly, I must report that this exact scenario repeated itself this afternoon; right down to the customer behind me being totally oblivious to the fact that she had shown no consideration for the person in line ahead of her, much less even a rudimentary understanding of the principle of impenetrability.

My response this afternoon was quick and effective.  I simply leaned over and swept her groceries back up the conveyor making all of the room that I needed.  I knew better than to waste words in a futile and frustrating attempt to illustrate the problem.

For you see, I am well aware of another of Einstein’s principles:  Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over again in an attempt to obtain a different result.  And I’m not insane.

Happy shopping!


Photo credit: juicyrai Foter.com CC BY-NC-SA

11 thoughts on “Where’s Einstein When You Need Him at the Grocery Checkout Line

  1. I loved this. Where’s the supermarket ettiquette? Happens all the time. Best advice -try fast tracking where you get to scan your own items. Makes hateful shopping experiences quicker. Unless of course you get randomly selected for a re-scan. Then it doesn’t.

  2. I must not shop enough. I always scan my own items at WalMart and have never been selected for “re-scan”…didn’t know they did that. No Publix or Kroger shopper has ever jumped onto the belt while I was unloading…I’d wind up in jail if someone did that to me. I DO NOT suffer the fool at all. Always been a weakness of mine.

    • I frequently use the self-service lines, but with a full cart it’s just easier to let a clerk and bag boy take over. Never heard of the “rescan” either. I must admit that WWBD did go through my mind when I suffered checkout line encroachment (What Would Bill Do).

  3. Great post OM, kudos for reacting the way you did! I have a tendency to freak out on people and blow things out of proportion. I just hate rude people!
    Just yesterday some guy had blocked my car. I tried to squeeze out for a good 20 minutes and couldn’t. I eventually called the police who told him to go get his car out of the way (calling them is a normal thing in the UAE). He had the audacity to come charging at me, unapologetic, questioning me why I had called the police. Then had told me if I was smart enough I would’ve caught the tiny little card on his dashboard that has his number.

    Needless to say, “it was on like donkey kong”.

    Ugh why are people so inconsiderate?


  4. Oh I can’t even explain how happy I am that I happened to stumble upon this post of yours! I too have felt the wrath of random and idiotic grocery store debacles like this. Where has common sense gone!
    Great post, and wonderful writing as well 🙂

Feel Free to Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s