Monday, March 15, 2010

Cashiers and Old Guys

I just got back from Happy Foods, our local grocery store. It's an independent store, and small enough to kind of know their customers (three check-out lanes). There's a lot of old guys who shop at Happy Foods, and previously, I thought it was because they don't like driving over to one of the big chain stores and parking in the football-field-sized lot and shopping in the football-field-sized store. But after standing in the check-out line today, listening to the conversations between the checkers and the old men, it dawned on me that old guys shop there, not because of the convenience, but because they get to trade banter with the check-out gals. Each cashier wears a sharp-looking name tag, enabling any customer, especially an old guy, to call them by their first name. Donna is my favorite: she sometimes winks while handing them their change (which might explain the long line at her check-out station).

The checkers are all women and politely laugh at all old-guy jokes. They are really good at this; it's not an obvious fake laugh like when my lovely wife introduces me at parties and laughingly warns me to behave, and then goes off to chat with everyone in the room and leaves me in the corner alone, balancing a drink and a saltine topped with cheese and a swirly thing, where I dutifully juggle the beverage and try not to get crumbs on the floor while finishing the cracker. No, these women are some of the kindest and best actresses on the planet and laugh appropriately while performing their job, which I don't think is easy (that keyboard looks intimidating, and who in the world can remember how much the fruit and vegetables are per pound and which tomato is vine-ripened and which is not).

After listening to some of the old guy-cashier banter, it's apparent that much of it is like a comedian's routine, obviously pre-written and quite possibly, rehearsed, and there's one guy who works a little blue, inciting nervous laughter by everybody in line. I imagine some of these fellows working on their routines at the kitchen table before going out to the store. I know how it would go at my house: "How does this sound, honey?" only to be met with, "Right, Shecky, don't forget the Swiss cheese."

Yes, these checkers are masters at their craft. I give them a break and don't say anything while the groceries whisk between us, figuring it won't be long before I, too, will need them as an audience.