The Shopping Line


STORY Adam Johnson


I do believe myself to be pent up inside. I don’t fully grasp the expression due to my current lack of dictionary, but it seems to make sense. The lines at the checkout move at a slow pace. An elderly man fights the cashier. I’d say something to the check-out chick if I hadn’t recently been abused by a feminist, that was a Friday to remember. In the remote possibility that she is a feminist I should refrain from using the term ‘chick’. The man claims prices are too high. Waving his walking stick in the air, dressing gown covering a sweat stained shirt, voice bellowing across the entire store. He is the perfect image of a mad man. Sadly he is right. Prices are too high, but she can’t change a thing. The poor thing looks like she might cry and no one seems to be going to her rescue.

I would, maybe.

It makes sense on some level. She represents the oppressive structure that is the modern grocery store. She is a face, a face of a corporation, which is oppressive on the level that warrants the need to be faceless. To avoid any accusations of capitalist extremism, or communist leanings, I hold back my place in the line. Secretly I hope the old geezer gets the 20% discount on beans, which he is currently demanding.

Why beans though? I mean he does have a whole basket of other more credible products far more worthy of a 20% discount. Most of the other products are priced at a level where 20% would make an actual difference. A can of beans for $1.67 though would be nice, good luck to him.

I wonder maybe if he gets a discount, should I stock up on beans? I wouldn’t buy them usually but with 20% off who can honestly resist the savings. Gosh, I’ve become cheap.
The girl, I think she is in tears. That or – no, he wouldn’t – it’s definitely tears or he spat in her eyes. Her face contorts, which adds to my suspicion of verbal projectiles. He is passionate about his rights as a consumer. His fundamental human right to food, I overhear him say. I doubt whether a can of beans counts as food, and if it does it’s a sad age we live in.

I should help, maybe.

Bravado would be useful in this situation. She is pretty, and being a knight in shining armour could make up for my all too obvious faults that stand in the way of me and girls that are described as pretty. I don’t want to call attention to myself, that and I’m tired and slightly tempted to yell at her too. She is the face of an oppressive corporation after all.

It is all too tempting at this stage to change aisles. I wonder, is the grass greener on the other side? Maybe I could pass an hour here between the condiments and chocolate, and just contemplate life. The simple task of shopping has become ridiculously introspective.

I’ve committed to this line, I don’t want to change now. I’ve made my choice and I shall live with the consequences. That being said I don’t think anyone would think any less of me if I just moved along.

I’m tired.

The woman behind me has begun to tap her foot. She is wearing her Sunday best and carrying an overzealous amount of toilet paper. It is irritating on multiple levels – a minimum of three. What does she think she will achieve? Yes, everyone in the line is now aware that you are impatient. Yes, we are all here late and would like to go home. Some of us potentially to loved ones. I highly doubt the rhythm of her heel can resolve the ongoing conflict, otherwise her diplomatic skills are going to waste. Would you like those items for free? Did your parents not love you? Are you doing drugs? Honestly just change queue or jump off a cliff, whatever makes you happier.

Did I really just think that?

You think being cranky when tired would be something one would grow out of with age, like acne. Though it seems just like acne that is one terrible, terrible lie. Late night shopping is an awful idea. I curse the man, or woman as the situation may be, that created this cancer on Thursday’s back.

My dad should be ringing up now to wish me goodnight. I didn’t want to miss that. It’s sad that I haven’t let go of saying goodnight to my parents. That or my refusal to throw away childish things could be endearing. One or the other I guess.
Many things will have to wait till tomorrow, that’s if I don’t die from old age in this line first. For the love of all that is good and holy pay for the damn beans. I don’t give a damn anymore, old man, screw the injustice of price inflation and give the good lady the money. I just want to leave already.

If only I said that out loud maybe it would have had some effect. All of these thoughts inside my mind, I just feel so pent. I think that’s correct, though I can’t check, you know benefit of the doubt and all.

The old man waves around his walking stick and no one moves.

I feel pent.

Definitely pent.