Thursday, January 6, 2011

Another Tale From The Checkout Line

It's been a while since something worth writing about has happened at the grocery store where I get my daily dose of carrots. This has been great though as my experiences I have written about made me feel uneasy for the rest of that day. Today my luck ran out.

The past several times I have been in the worker in charge of the automated checkout area has been saying more and more. On Monday the person said, "Thanks!" then Tuesday, "Thank you for shopping at..." And yesterday it was, "Thanks, have a happy new year and a good day". The odd thing is it was a different person each time, but since I believe trends continue I was really fearful of what the dialogue would be today.

Why would I be afraid? The reason is that I don't know how to respond. I use the automatic checkout machine to avoid any personal conversation and now personal conversation is slowly creeping into my automated aisle.

This morning my routine was thrown off right away as they were out of the 1 pound bad so I had to spend an extra dollar and get the 2 pound bag (it is resealable so I have carrots tomorrow). This was in my mind, but quickly left my mind as I neared the area where the self checkout machines were.

I was on auto pilot as I started scanning my two items because I was so fearful of what the worker would say. I was hoping that the person would be on break, or picking up items somewhere, or heck anywhere but the stand that is central command of the self checkout aisle. My hopes were dashed and I started fearing what would happen at the end of my purchase.

The bags of carrots would not scan and I kept trying and eventually it went. The energy drink instantly scanned so I tried to put in my cash, but it wouldn't go. I kept trying to force it into the cash slot, but then, after many seconds, realized that I had not tapped the "cash" payment option on the screen.

My mind was totally shot due to the impending fear of what the worker might say. As I said, I have no idea how to respond and at the same time I know eventually if I say nothing enough a person may yell at me. In my mind I can't win as I know I need to say something if they talk, but that takes time to process and the script is always changing, but if I say nothing I may make them mad and they may yell.

This no-win situation kept going through my mind and the machine finally took my cash. I waited and took my receipt and items and tried to use my art of evasion to get out unnoticed. Getting out unseen was not possible and the worker did talk to me, "Sir, your cash?"

I didn't hear her because I was so hyper-focused on the door, but she said it again and I finally heard her words. I quickly thought back and realized I had skipped a step in the process. I was so anxious over the last step that I forgot to pick up my change from my purchase. I walked back to the machine and picked up my $14.74 that was sitting in the tray and I left.

This is another great example of what social anxiety can do to a person on the spectrum. We start fearing and planning out the final event, or the event that requires interaction, and we will make odd mistakes in the middle. I have never left money just sitting out in the open, but I made one flub after another this morning all because I was fearful of a, "thanks" or a, "happy new year".

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