The supermarket checkout line was invented in 1938, just in time to provide endurance training for the large, rugged fighting-mad population needed for the trying times of World War II.

That’s not a complete exaggeration. How many times in the last month have you endured long waits in a checkout line,watching your Haagen-Dazs drip into your bagels, as a conscientious clerk read someone’s pack of discount coupons, front and back, and then called a manager for consultation? How many eternities have you spent while a housewares clerk strolls over to advise the price of an untagged soup ladle?

The express checkout is a great idea. However, it seems to be the first assignment for green recruits. I once tried vainly to help a rookie identify the exact genetic name of my potatoes so he could punch the right twenty buttons to come up with the price. Finally, a housewife at the end of the line shouted, “For goodness sakes, you two dummies, those are russets!”

In the new bring-your-own-bags era, pro baggers are not always on hand. To help speed things up, I sometimes attempt to fill the void, but my performance tends to resemble an”I Love Lucy” episode with groceries zooming in on the belt while I desperately try to keep up. I usually arrive home with scrambled eggs and the milk already poured into the Wheaties.

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