I’m Not a Cynic!

Photo by Nik on Unsplash

Yesterday, while dutifully scrambling to transfer my groceries from the cart to the belt, dig my credit card out of my purse, search for an empty space on which to place my bags in the bagging area, poke multiple buttons on the pin pad to decline this membership and that donation, AND bag my own groceries, I was flummoxed by the impatient clerk who irritably told me to move my bag. I had mistakenly set my bag in the place where the bags-for-purchase would have received my purchases had I not provided my own reusable bags.

“Would you move your bag; you’re in…”, she snarled.

“I’m in your way?” I finished for her brightly, as she fumbled around her cranky brain for an acceptable finish to her impolite request.

“Don’t mince words, I’m not overly sensitive”, I followed as she sheepishly nodded. I moved my bags further down the counter and proceeded to place my groceries in my bags, reaching over the various and sundry items that stores have deemed the last ditch place to get one to part with yet another donation or make an impulse purchase. The clerk shifted impatiently as she waited for me to remove my card from the card reader so she could begin shoving the next customer’s comestibles into the items I hadn’t yet had time to bag.

I remember a time, and here I flagrantly make a display of my age, when one wheeled the cart to within reach of the checker, then stood back to fill out the check (that’s a slip of paper with one’s banking information on it, with spaces to fill in the amount of money one wishes to transfer to the vendor) in anticipation of paying for the groceries, while the pleasant staff removed purchases from the cart, rang them up by hand (no scanner), and conveyed them down the line to a clean-cut young person (known as a box boy) who carefully sorted one’s items into bags (provided at no additional cost), and placed them into one’s now-empty cart. The check-out clerk dutifully compared one’s driver’s license to the information on the check and then kindly asked if the customer would like help out with her order.

Do I sound old and crabby? Have I become cynical, fondly remembering the good old days? Probably but I prefer to believe that, “Those people we identify as cynics are idealists whose feelings are hurt every single day by the world being not what they hoped it would be.”*

*Bob Odenkirk in Lucky Hank

14 thoughts on “I’m Not a Cynic!

  1. Being a Box Boy – or a Courtesy Clerk, as they were known in my region/generation – was a rite of passage for folks like us. I think as far as jobs went, it was pretty foundational. You had a set of specific responsibilities, the expectation was that you worked as fast as possible and left a great last impression of the store for the customer.
    Feels like something that’s definitely missing from today’s worker culture, no?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hired a kid from Voc-ed when I was running 19 music stores. He’d been a bag boy before his hair fell out of his hat. He worked at a grocery store in Valley Ranch where all the Dallas Cowboys lived and his big brag was how many times he’d sacked Troy Aikman. Even had an autographed picture with Troy. Holding his bag.🤣

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Considering that nearly everybody expects a tip these days, one would think cheerful service would be a given. That said, I’ve read that a survey indicated that aloof wait staff earned better tips than the friendly ones. I guess it’s hard to resist trying to appease the snob.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can sympathize! We were doing our own bagging (since I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic I bring home) and the cashier was very impatient. She was scanning faster than my husband could bag. So we both started bagging. She had the nerve to say that I needed to PAY instead of bag my groceries! I ignored her. The gentleman behind me didn’t. He told her that being rude wouldn’t speed the process and he was happy that it was taking a little more time since he hadn’t put all his groceries in the belt yet! Sheesh! She was someone new and I don’t think she’s going to last! Son#1 works at a grocery that still has baggers and they’ll take them to your car too. I hope that they don’t go to having the customer bag as it is a great perk that sets them apart from the rest of the stores in the area…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My niece says she refuses to be rushed by cashiers who stand idle while she does all the work at the check stand. She “blows sunshine up their skirt” while taking her time. I too, try not to get snotty with an impertinent whippersnapper.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Depending on the checker I’ll pitch in, or do it myself in situations that require it, and sometimes I’ll stand there like a post, presenting the dumbest old clueless smiling hands in pocket geezer and stare at the aggregation of goods at the end of the belt like I do t see them and wouldn’t know what to do if I did until the checker harrumphs their way through throwing my my shit into bags while I give directions like “if you can, try to keep the veg together?” “Don’t crush the chips!”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Pro Writing Aid and all the AI incarnations constantly remind me to use inclusive, non demeaning language. Like server or attendant is less demeaning than wait-x or steward-x? Courtesy clerk would require courteous to be part of their presentation and we all know 99% of the time that ain’t gonna happen,

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Luckily, I have galby68 to keep me up to date on politically correct language. You would think I’d be better at it since I work at a Presbyterian church where even God is gender neutral.


  5. I come from the outdated “box boy” days. The only time I remember being hassled was while traveling in Idaho and the young fellow was annoyed that I would not let him help me carry my groceries out to the car. He pointedly informed me that it was his job.


  6. We called them “bag boys” as those stores never offered boxes.

    Checks were the bane of the universe, even back then. It would require so many key punches for the cashier that it almost seemed like they were pretending to do something and were just hitting random buttons (think airports where something as simple as looking at the roster and saying “this person already paid for this flight” requires 90000 hours of typing for no rational reason. It’s like they use you, standing there trying not to fidget and become anxious, as a way to write an entire blog post on the job!) People hated two things back then: people who paid by check and people who paid entirely by coins. Both of which gave the bag boy plenty of time to bag everything, receive the keys to the person’s car, go find it, load it, take it for a joy ride, pick up his girlfriend, flee the state to elope, grab a movie with her, drop her home, chat with her parents, take the car to your house, unbag the groceries and figure out where they went and put them away for you, come back and pretend that he was there the whole time but you just didn’t see him. Unfortunately, he usually just stood there chatting with the checkout girl who was trying to put the information in accurately or count to $300 using pennies and nickels or still typing in your information – probably so you could go on an FBI watchlist for being annoying enough to carry a checkbook. Everyone on Earth tried to save time by filling out the majority of the check while they were waiting for the person in front of them to clear their check, but that saved a whopping total of about 2.25 minutes.

    Weirdly, now that we have to bag our own groceries, that time spent with the cashier typing endlessly would be beneficial, but stores no longer accept checks. And if you try to pay in coins, your order is cancelled and you’re told you can’t use that checkout lane but must go to another one, where apparently the cashier has been professionally trained to count to 78 cents, as you handed her EXACT change, with 6 coins and 1 bill on a $100.78 purchase. ARGH! No, they make it impossible for you to get your groceries bagged quickly, but payment takes exactly 10 seconds. Then, you get the joy of watching as you are dismissed while still trying to bag and the next person is taken and their stuff slammed into your precious eggs.

    My uncle had this down to a science, and I shall pass his brilliance on to you. I always forget to do it, but I’m a mess and we all know it lol.

    He would rearrange his cart a thousand times while actually shopping. The huge bagless items would go on the bottom part – like the 24 packages of soda, kitty litter, etc. The heavier bagables would go to the front of the cart, like gallons of milk, all mid range items like canned foods would go in the middle and back of the cart, all light and breakable stuff into the seat of the cart like bread and eggs. In the line, he would load his groceries starting with the bottom and work his way to the front, middle, then seat. The lady/man would ring him through, and he’d already have opened all of his reusable bags into his cart as he was waiting for the person in front of him to finish stressing because the card reader was having a fit as it already took the needed money. She’d ring out, he’d be down at the end of the conveyer, catching what she slid toward him. As she was ringing out the very last item, everything was already in said bags and properly packed. He’d swipe his card, and he’d be out. Done-zo. I was always super impressed with the efficiency with which he would shop, but I was raised by my mother who would always ask the bag boy to take a break and line my sisters and I up at the bottom of the conveyer. My middle sister would place the heavy items, slide the bag to my baby sister who’d complete the bag, and baby sister would slide to me to put the 500 lb bag into the cart. If her and I went alone, I go to place the bags the bag boy did, and the bags only averaged “the bag will break, but only after you got to your car” lol If the bag was too heavy, we’d learn to bag it right for next time. My uncle’s bags were weirdly almost identical in weight. Maybe a half a pound off, max. And when you lifted them you would always think “heavy but will never rip.” It was seriously like magic. It was almost like he would go grocery shopping having organized his coupons AND the items in his head before he went comparing the items by weight for the bags.

    So, yeah, it’s possible to pull off that magic – I’ve seen it over and over again with him; as far as I know, he’s the only person I have ever met that doesn’t remember bag boys fondly as the always packed his bags “wrong” and gave a standard deviation up to an entire pound between bags.


    1. Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever had a comment that was longer than my post, but thanks. I learned from it; I didn’t know that they no longer accepted checks. Lucky for my mom, she died before it came to that as she never had a credit card.


      1. Hahaha I’m infamous for my stupid long comments lol

        They do take debit. Same as a check, but like a credit card. So, I think she would have been ok. My father hated the idea of a debit card at first, then got used to it and he doesn’t think about it. Swipe-swipe. Debit and credit – it’s the same to him.


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