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National Editorials & Columns

Try reading between the lines

It is very hard for me to resist the urge to body slam complete strangers from time to time. The temptation is at a fevered pitch whenever I am standing in the checkout line at the grocery or department store. I am not talking about any old line at the store. I am referencing the 12 items or less line.

It is not that hard of a concept to grasp. Count your items. Does that number equal 12 or a lower number? If yes, this is the line for you. This would be the line for you because there is an actual sign hanging up above that reads — in English and Spanish — that this is the line for people with 12 items or less.

Most people who can count to 12 without using their fingers and have some form of semblance toward mankind already understand the vast complexities of the 12 items or less line.

Pop quiz, hotshot: You have 13 or more items in your cart, what do you do? What do you do! Answer: Get out of my line.

There is a reason why it is called the 12 items or less line and not the two-dozen items or less line or the 33 items or less line. It’s not guesswork. A person should know going in to that line the exact number of items he or she has. Otherwise the whole sense of efficiency the line represents is tarnished.

I think some people in a 12 items or less line live in a fantasy world. A fantasy world where the rule breakers think every customer behind them in line can’t clearly count the number of items in their shopping cart. Wake up! You’re not fooling anyone.

The other day there was this rather portly woman in front of me who had a shopping cart filled with items that led me to believe she was a doomsday preparation enthusiast. She clearly had more than 12 items. I just wanted to perform the Walmart equivalent of a citizen’s arrest on the lady. I wanted to place every item from her cart on the rubber conveyor belt one by one and then hand her over to store authorities for what I imagine to be a severe flogging.

But that’s the other problem I have with the 12 items or less line. There is no authority. Just once — and I mean just once — I would like to see some guys dressed like secret operatives swoop in on some unsuspecting customer with way more than 12 items and say, “Ma’am, you’re going to need to come with us.” And then they lead her away, never to be seen or heard from again.

Coupons should be forbidden in the 12 items or less line. The line lives and dies on its effectiveness. Coupons grind store lines to a halt. All it takes is someone wanting to save 15 cents on a can of baked beans and before you know it the wait in line becomes an agonizing ordeal.

The 12 items or less line can be deceiving. That’s my theory as to why so many people wind up there with more than 12 items. It’s always located at the very end of the store and appears like a mirage on the horizon. It’s usually a short line that moves quickly. I think that’s where all the envelope pushers come from. They think, “I have about 15 or so items, I should be all right.”

Bam! Next thing they know I get behind them in line and intently begin thinking about body slamming them on the linoleum tile. Silly fools, it is not called the 15 items or less line.

People who have more than 12 items are overdue for a good body slamming. I have found most people who can’t follow or fathom the rules of the 12 items or less line — and I should know because I stalk them out to the parking lot — are the same ones who refuse to place their carts in the cart corral.

Most of them act like they have 12 brain cells or less.

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