My van will overheat if it sits at idle too long. My solution to this problem has been simple: I do not sit at idle for too long. I do my best to avoid traffic and have learned the point at which I need to shut the engine off and let it cool down. At first, it was infuriating. I’m not proud of it, but I’ll admit that I threw a temper tantrum or two when I had to wait. But I’ve learned it’s a problem I can work around if I think ahead and pay attention. It certainly adds an element of suspense to a drive-though experience, but it’s not a big deal. At least it’s not a big enough deal to give up my morning lattes to put in the Fix My Van Fund. In terms of stress, it ranks right above waiting for a deposit to show up in my checking account but below the Aldi checkout line.
I experience an inordinate amount of anxiety in the Aldi checkout line.
If you’ve ever shopped at Aldi, you know the checkout is fast. The secret, I believe, is the empty cart the cashier has lying in wait for your items in order to immediately begin scanning them as you finish unloading the contents of your cart onto the conveyor belt. The idea is that you simply take the cashier’s cart once it’s filled with your items in exchange for your empty one. Then you head expeditiously to the do-it-yourself bagging station. It’s a quick, streamlined process that I often manage to screw completely because my cart is usually filled to nearly overflowing with not only groceries but also, at least, one baby and a diaper bag attached by stroller straps.
Friends, you do not know what it is to be hated until you’ve slowed the Aldi checkout line. And I get it, I guess. Some customers chose Aldi because of the quick checkout. Or maybe they feel like they’re going to have diarrhea. And just because I haven’t had one doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have an emergency that requires the fastest possible purchase of a cartload of ginormous marshmallows. Who knows what kind of day the people behind me are having? Still, I’ve found it takes approximately an eyeroll worth of waiting for polite smiles to invert and spit sighs of fire right at your face. And I usually need about thirty more seconds than that to transfer the baby and diaper bag to the filled cart. I’m only exaggerating a little bit when I say those are the thirty most stressful seconds of my existence. I burn easily! And I really do not like to inconvenience people. So I realized I needed to either A) start getting my groceries on the conveyor belt before the cashier starts scanning so the items can be packed right into my cart with the (sometimes sleeping!) baby seated nicely in it or B) finish unloading my groceries on the conveyor belt and get the baby transferred to the other cart before the cashier has finished scanning. (Dave suggests there is option C in which I endure the thirty seconds of inpatient weight-shifting, eyerolls, and harumphs and, perhaps, even ignore them. But we all know I am incapable of that.) So, I’ve developed a strategy to get this done.
It begins with the consumption of a highly caffeinated beverage on the commute to the store. I arrive as close to store opening as possible and quickly select my items according to a shopping list organized by aisle. Once I’m ready to checkout, I use a careful algorithm which factors in the length of the line versus number of customers in the store, Jack’s level of contentedness, the cashier’s demeanor and how badly I have to pee to determine whether to take a lap around produce or my place in line. I’ve perfected my cart packing process for maximum unloading efficiency and I rehearse it in my head while awaiting my turn. When the moment arrives, I explode into unloading action. I like to imagine that the groceries will be free if I can accomplish my goal and when I do? It’s a rush like no other. (This is where you should imagine me slow-motion strutting my cart out of the store to Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta by Geto Boys.) If I fall short? The annoyed glances are punishment enough. They hang like posters on the wall of the self-worth section of my brain.
Recently, however, I found a benevolent cashier who has transformed my shopping experience by doing the unthinkable: waiting on me. She took note of the baby in my cart and my frenetic unloading the first time we met. That time and every time since, she has suddenly remembered some small task she must complete before starting to ring up my order. She’s so friendly with everyone that she manages to pull off giving me the extra slice of time I need without making anyone angry. I’d like to ask her for her work schedule. I am so grateful to her. I’m thinking about getting her a Christmas present. Would that be weird? My heart says to make her some homemade buckeyes or something I can infuse with love, but we don’t even know each others’ names. If she’s sane, she probably wouldn’t eat a homemade treat from a stranger, anyway, I guess. So, maybe a gift card? In the meantime, I’ve decided to try and pay her compassion forward. At Aldi, it costs a quarter to use a cart, which you get back when you return it. I’ve started giving my cart and quarter to someone else. Maybe it’ll make it easier for them to wait on someone else that needs an extra thirty seconds.