Monday, August 27, 2012

The Trials of Checkout Lane #7

If I am ever short on stuff to write about I think I should just visit supermarket after supermarket because over the course of my entire blog there has been so much blog material experienced there.

It was Saturday and I needed some food so I went to supermarket. I quickly realized why I don't normally go out on the weekend (it was crowded) and navigating the store was like navigating a busy harbour in rough waters. This made the whole process difficult but nothing could prepare me for the overly social checker-outter of checkout lane #7.

There was a person in front of me that the clerk was talking to. This man was very friendly and had the utmost of casual ways about him. I stood firm on my ground and was quite stiff in my movements. I was really hoping that his social ways would not carry over to me. There was time so I counted my items to see if I could use the self checkout lane, but having the fruit as I did I didn't know if that worked and now there was a person behind me so I was trapped in this lane.

The person in front of me was done and paid so it was my turn. I stood, almost at attention as I normally do when I am socially paralyzed (the checkout lane has never been easy for me; even more so when I'm fearing being spoken to) and the checkout process began.

There was no bagger at this point in time so the clerk (I know they have a name but I can't think of it at the moment) went to bag then went back to ringing the items. As a bagger came he said to him, "See, look at what you're doing! We have this man here waiting patiently and you're making him wait." Here we go I thought... His words were in jest but once he started I knew I was in trouble, "We can't make this man wait, right?" He looked at me when he said right and I knew I was supposed to answer, but how could I? The clerk was joking, but I didn't want to state that I had been waiting because the only thing my mind was thinking about was getting out of there ASAP.

"Right?" he asked again and I shook my head in a direction that wasn't quite up but wasn't quite down. He then added, "Ah, a man of few words. I like that. All you want to do is spend your $20 and leave. Rather efficient." Please please please get me out of here!

For you this situation may seem like nothing. For me this was sheer terror. I don't know how to respond to this small talk. The clerk got it right, I aim for efficiency and I am always thinking about how to get in and get out as fast as possible and to minimize the social component. I hope I don't sound like I'm angry at the clerk because I'm not, a normal person would be able to have simple banter like the woman in front of me had. Obviously this guy is popular and I gathered he has regulars, but I'm not equipped for such encounters.

"So your total is... Cash? No? Credit card. Once again efficient. And yet not one smile..." By this point in time all words had no meaning. I was still trying to figure out the ramifications of the question of, "Right?" and had no idea where in the script of conversation we were. To put simply, I was lost.

Other things were said but I don't know what they were. Hearing was the last of my concerns as there was a feeling of flooding anxiety flowing through my body. I say flooding because I could feel what must have been adrenaline flowing and it became the only thing I could feel. I think by the end the clerk was a little perplexed as to why I had this attitude of sorts but it wasn't directed towards him. I became overwhelmed and my ability to interact with those in my environment ceased.

I've said all along that random social encounters are not easy for me. In this instance it was a barrage of comments and jokes that I couldn't handle. Once again, the clerk did nothing wrong, but in the end it probably looked like I was a standoffish jerk. For anyone who saw this, which was probably just the clerk and bagger, I may have appeared that way but there was no way that they could imagine just 1/10th the size of fear, anxiety, and sadness I was feeling at that point in time as I was screaming my lungs out in silence.


  1. I just want to say thank you for all you write, I read them often yet never say anything about your post just one other time. You help me understand my grandson so much more and where he comes from. He is 6 with asd, I am always looking for ways to understand the world in his eyes to help him. You help give me a piece of his world how he sees things it makes sense to me after I read the things you write and then how he acts at times. So thank you very much from this nana and I am sure my grandson Jaden would say thank you cause his nana can be more understanding with him. High Fives.

  2. thank you for writing..sometimes i, maybe for different reasons just don't want to talk to the cashier..sometimes the cashier don't want to talk to me..i think some people feel bad for cashiers(i've actually had my very extroverted friend tell me this) because they must be bored standing on their feet all day.. My friend said he tries to brighten their day with a joke or some kind of banter..i remember when i was a cashier,,i hated talking to customers..i'd think please don't ask me a question, please just leave, my face must have been blood red..imagine if we were all talkers no one would get a word in..

  3. When you get to my line of work, you NEED small talk. Small talk is how you build rapport with people. Small talk is how you maybe able to buy into your ideas for treatment. Small talk is something where you might find something to motivate a client.

    Don't get me wrong- I love being efficient and what some people called low-context. But, one thing I have learned from my OT classmates is that small talk is an important thing to get a group loose so that the members can be ready for the task at hand. So now occasionally I will do it too!