Our friends who say they don’t “do” Facebook are in the category of people who boast that they don’t own a television or shop in big-box stores. They are telling us that they are a bit holier than we are. It is useless to argue with them, even though you have documented proof that, once you get by the pictures of cats and foreign foods (that would challenge the digestive prowess of a cockroach), Facebook is as valuable a tool as an electric chain saw or a cider press.

Let me tell you about Facebook friend Debbie, who attracted my attention with an eloquent rant about how she handles long lines in her favorite grocery store. Like any good storyteller, she whetted my appetite slowly, and launched her tale by apologizing for shopping there – only because a few things are much cheaper there than anywhere else. This store, she says, is no more distasteful to her than any of the other biggies. She doesn’t go through the self checkout, although she would if punching in her own numbers gave her a discount.

And here I digress to tell you that I was in a grocery store in the Netherlands where my Dutch friend picked up items, scanned them with a cellphone and dropped them into a cloth bag in his shopping cart. We approached the checkout counter, where the clerk scanned the cellphone and we zipped out the door. By scanning your own groceries, you are rewarded with the absence of a checkout line.

If you have time on your hands, a checkout line can provide entertainment, or at least something to think about when you get home. Jo said she was once in line behind a cheerful man who had an economy box of condoms, a six-pack of beer and a bouquet of roses.

Steve told me the most shocking thing he ever heard at a Camden checkout was two clerks trying to decide if bourbon was whiskey.

I’ll paraphrase Duane: “Soon after I moved here from Wisconsin, a woman in the line was excitedly telling her friend about taking her daughter to a potty – not something that is usually discussed in public. I couldn’t help but think how weird Mainers are until I got home and realized they were talking about a party.”


Debbie admits that, while in line, she enjoys talking to people. If the lines are too long, she calls the store and says, “There are a lot of people waiting in line, you need to open a few more registers. Hahaha.” A grumpy voice thanks her for her input, and another register opens.

It takes no stretch of the imagination to believe that she’s been cheered and applauded by the others waiting in lines. She says she’s not quiet about it, either. She makes it known to one and all that she’s calling the front desk, and they should do the same whenever a shopping trip resembles a wake.

Not content to rest on those laurels, she then tells of calling the office for help while waiting at a farm supply store for horse grain. She asked if they had horse grain. Yes. She said she couldn’t see it and could someone please find it for her?

“You’re in the store?”

“Yep, nobody back here.”

A man who was also waiting thought it was a hoot.


You can see why I was quite taken by the ease with which Debbie can rouse out a checkout clerk who might not live long enough to be paid a living wage.

You know as well as I do that this kind of technical trickery works for only young people, who know how to look up numbers and then call them on a cellphone. I couldn’t do it.

And now you might wonder if there are other ways to draw management’s attention to long checkout lines, outside of making a spectacle of yourself.

The answer is, “Yes.”

I very quietly lie down on the floor behind my shopping cart and close my eyes.

When the store medic tries to take my vital signs, I open one eye and explain that I’m just resting while I’m waiting. If there had been a bench or chair handy, I would have gladly perched on that.

How do you handle it?

Is there any need for crowded checkout lines in any Maine store owned by billionaires? Anybody seeing a picture of some of the long lines I’ve been in would think we were trying to vote for a Democrat in Texas.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:

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