Friday, May 15, 2015

How To Ignore People: Lessons From The Checkout Line


I went grocery shopping today.


As I stood in line waiting to checkout, I looked over my items and I felt pretty confident in my purchases. I say "confident" because that's exactly the opposite of how I feel most of the time in the grocery store, but today, today I felt good.

I had two heads of lettuce, a cantaloupe, a bunch of bananas, 8 yogurts, two bags of cheese, 4 quarts of almond milk, two bags of pretzels, two packages of tortillas, 3 cans of beans, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Ok, I didn't have that last one, but I did have a pear. 4 of them actually.

So anyway, I looked over my cart and I felt good. I felt good because there was nothing in there that I felt would warrant people to judge me. If you have ever been on food stamps, you know what I'm talking about, I'm talking about what I refer to as a "splurge item." It's that box of cookies you buy so that your daughter doesn't feel left out in the cafeteria in school. It's the single serving of candy that your son earned from completing his chore chart. It's the ice cream you buy for yourself because your life sucks and sometimes you just want to forget about it and eat ice cream. Sometimes it's even the over priced gluten free bread that you buy because your family can't eat wheat. It's any of those things or the 900 million other items that people deem as unacceptable the second they see you pull out your food stamp card.

But today, today I had none of that.

The line was long. Really, really long because as usual the store had only five of it's 35 checkout lanes open.


I waited, browsing the magazines on the rack next to me, reminding myself that a candy bar wasn't in the budget this week, and even though I was bored as hell I dared not pull out my phone.

I have a nice phone and poor people aren't allowed to have nice things.

Never mind that it's a phone with a camera that I need for work, people don't know that and they don't care. As soon as they see my food stamp card and remember seeing me use my phone, they judge me. Sometimes out loud and sometimes just with their eyes, but either way, it hurts.

So today, today I wasn't going to pull out my phone because today was going to be a good day, an easy day.

Finally it was my turn. I loaded all my groceries onto the belt, and made small talk with the cashier as she rang everything through and bagged it all up. When it came time to pay I pulled out my food stamp card, careful not to make eye contact with anyone around me, because despite that fact that for the most part I've made peace with my situation, the checkout lane is one of the places where I still feel defeated by shame.

But today was going to be easy.

And then my card got declined.

That didn't make any sense because I had checked the balance before I went into the store, and I knew that there should have been more than enough to pay my bill.

The cashier gave me the "I'm a little bit embarrassed for you" line of "ooooo, I'm so sorry, that card was declined. Do you have another one?"

No, no I don't.

"Uh..." I said. "Can I try it again? I'm not sure if it worked right because I know that there is money on it."

"Sure!" she exclaimed. "Go ahead and swipe it again."


I did and this time a little message popped up on the screen that said "bank unavailable."

"That's strange" she said, "can I see your card?"

It was then that a voice came from the man standing in line behind me, a voice that said "just use another card. There are a lot of people in line and we don't have all day to wait for you."

My face turned beet red as my gaze dropped to the floor. I really didn't even know what to say because I didn't have another card.

I stood there for a minute while the cashier pushed a bunch of buttons on her cash register and then I said "hey you know what, I'll just come back later." I started to put items back into my cart, deciding that with or without groceries, anywhere was a better place to be than right there.

"No! Don't be silly" said the cashier in an overly chipper tone. "These registers can be so fickle, we'll get this straightened out."

And then the man spoke again.

"Actually, I think that's a great idea, her coming back later. Why don't you have her step aside so that actual paying customers can buy their groceries. Since everyone else in line including myself is paying for her food stamps out of our own paychecks, I don't think it's right that I also have to wait behind her in line while she reaps the benefits of it."

At that moment I wished the floor would have just opened up and swallowed me whole, although I probably just could have just fallen into one of the cracks that were already there and disappeared, because I only felt about 2cm tall.

The cashier looked stunned. As she picked up the phone to call a manager for help, she turned her back away from the man and whispered to me "just ignore him."

I tried, but as I waited for the manager to come and one by one people started leaving the line, all my insecurities washed over me like an all encompassing, engulfing, and suffocating wave.

The other checkout lines, they were long. I'm talking like at least a twenty minute wait in each one, but as each new person would walk up behind the man, looking as though they had just hit the jackpot in the short line lottery, the man would turn around and tell them "if I were you I wouldn't wait here. This lady doesn't have enough money to pay for her groceries. I'd leave too but I've been standing here so long that I could have made it through any of the other lines twice, so I might as well stay here until they make her leave."

Inevitably the new person would back their cart up and out of the lane, leaving the man and I standing there while I absorbed the full weight of the hatred and anger he was directing at me; emotions he was having no trouble transferring to me as he bore his eyes into my skull.

I tried to ignore him — ignore the entire world — but several times when I dared lift my eyes up from the floor, he would be standing there, staring me down. The cashier would eventually catch my gaze and each time she would again mouth "just ignore him."

Eventually the manager came, called the state hot line, and sure enough there was a problem with the state's computer system, not with my available balance. The manager was able to push the transaction through by phone and after what felt like an eternity later, she walked away and the cashier helped me load my groceries into the cart. When the last bag was settled in and I turned to leave, the cashier flipped off the "lane open" light on her register and walked away with me, leaving the man standing there all alone.

As I stopped to dig my keys out of my purse the cashier looked at me and said "see, now that's how you ignore people who aren't being very nice." 



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If You Liked This, Check Out These!



"I Volunteered At The Food Pantry For Years, But Now We Eat There."

Photo Credits
Checkout Line
Credit Card Machine
Grocery Bag
Cashier Closed

55 comments:

  1. I work as a cashier and deal with jerks like *him* frequently. I appreciate this so much. No one deserves that treatment. I'm so glad that your cashier shut him down and walked with you. Sending you love. <3

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    1. Ugh, I can't imagine dealing with those people all day!!

      *hugs*

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    2. Do not feel shamed or embarrassment! You know your reasons and they don't! Oh also use quick food stamp card, little do the people who judge know this but i, just as you, work full time. But with 3 kids and not a great paying job plus all the other bills and necessities there's never money left for food. My oldest son is also on a gluten and dairy free diet and also has insulin resistance which means he literally only can eat "all natural, good foods" if anyone has an issue with what I buy using my food stamps then too damn bad, I know my story and they don't! So next time, no matter what your purchasing, keep your head held high and smile! We appreciate the help we get, many others may not, but we do!

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    3. I also use* lol what a legible statement that was

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    4. You rock sister! I'm going to think of you next time I get the angry staredown from someone lol.

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  2. Good for her. I'm sorry you had to deal with that asshat. I used to think like him. But here's one taxpayer who will tell you to get what you need for your physical and emotional well being. And if that means ice cream, go for it. :)

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    1. Aw, you made me smile. Thank you :)

      *hugs*

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  3. Omg, that cashier deserves employee of the year! What an amazingly awesome way of dealing with that asshat.

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  4. I'd have gone to jail for kicking him in the nuts. I'm glad the cashier stuck up for you, and glad that you didn't back down and got your groceries anyway!

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  5. At least this story has a happy ending.

    People can be awful to each other.

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    1. Yes, yes they can be! I'm glad it ended that way as well :)

      *hugs*

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  6. Reading about your cashier's action caused me to break out into my "evil laugh". Would have served him right if the manager had turned off the lights in the store and said they were closing because of a clear violation of the store's "Don't be a flaming a$$hole!" policy. Thank you for reminding me that any time I get frustrated and "judgy" when someone holds up the line I'm in with something like a foodstamps purchase, I need to climb down off my mountain of self-righteousness and see if I can't dredge up the teeniest bit of compassion from my precious little self.

    I'd hate to be anywhere near that guy when his karmic balance comes due. I just got back from a packed memorial service for a truly special man, who everyone agreed lived his life for the purpose of helping others. It was a good reminder of the fact that our ultimate worth in life is determined by how we treat other people, and how many lives we have improved during our time on Earth. By any reasonable measure, Eden, your worth as a human being is vastly superior to this shriveled husk of a man.

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    1. Thanks :) "Shriveled husk of a man." That's a new one for me, I'm banking that phrase that for later lol.

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  7. Um, no. And I wouldn't be able to contain myself either. I would've put him in his place because clearly he doesn't know where it is. I would've called him out if he was attacking me and I would've done the same if I witnessed him bullying someone else. Kudos to the cashier.

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  8. I think I the manager should have dealt with him...or who knows, maybe he quietly told the cashier to shut down after you. Those running a store should never let another customer harass you like that.

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  9. F-ing AWESOME!!!

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  10. How rude and mean of him to say things like that. I don't believe I would just walk off if I had come up behind him and he told me that. And good for that cashier! *hugs* That experience had to suck immensely. If/when you find that embarrassing moment decides to come back to you at random times, just take deep breaths.

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    1. I was hoping someone might actually catch his heels with their shopping cart, but it didn't happen lol.

      Thanks for your support :)

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  11. What a dick. Good for that cashier for treating him like the ass hole he is. Curious he knows what the card even looks like. When we had help for a while we got a card that looks like a debit card and I doubt anyone could have known the difference.

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    1. Perhaps he was once on SNAP benefits and managed to get off them, which is why he is judgmental of others unable to do the same. Or he just knows what it looks like and is a dick, who knows!

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    2. I thought that too, that maybe he had been on it before. Makes him a bigger douche if that's the case. I have a lot of sympathy for people on them...it isn't easy to get them and it does feel weird. I never ever thought I would find us needing the help, but wow I sure was grateful for them when we needed them!

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    3. I always wonder how people know as well. Sometimes it will pop up on the register, or other times the cashier will say "are you using food or cash credit?" (I don't get cash, but it just asks anyway). This time I think it said something about insufficient funds, and then something specific to our state's program.

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  12. What a horrible person. I worked with someone like that, she resented the fact that some of her taxes would go towards supporting people with children. I'm glad the cashier pranked him like that, though in her position I'd have told the man to stop harassing you and find another till.

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    1. Ugh that had to be a fun person! I was pretty impressed with the cashier as well. :)

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  13. Anyone who makes comments about how people on welfare are lazy (not JUST in public) are immediately written off in my book. There are so many issues in this country and it's not the people at the bottom that are the problem. Most of them have shit situations most people can't even imagine. And if being the 53% of Americans who pay income taxes is the number one thing you pride yourself for, they have to be a really shallow person.

    I imagine you must share my perspective on this, having "once" had a lot of money (well your parents still do, you just don't want to deal with the craziness - which makes your decision even MORE shocking.) I have seen people with much less money than I ever had that actually work harder than my parents ever did. For my parents, work was an escape from home and the kids they hated, not something they had to do. It's only now that I realize how out of touch with reality I was, that some people simply don't have the ability to make shit tons of money for whatever reason. So yeah, that whole "American Dream" is kinda bullshit.

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    1. Very true. In many professions it's those that make the least that work the hardest. I agree that in a lot of cases it's justified; those people worked hard in school, acquired debt doing it, and so on, but it's not always that clear cut ya know?

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  14. One of the things that baffles me is that this check-out line dick and his ilk never seem to consider that the tax dollars that entitlement recipients spend on SNAP/welfare/etc. are in fact their own, which they paid into the system during the time in their lives when they had gainful employment, and that during more fortunate times when they have decent paying jobs again, they'll pay those tax dollars right back into the system.

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    1. THIS^^^. My parents have had to do this, going back and forth between being "givers" and "takers". The idea of dividing people permanently into being one or the other is just so ignorant.

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  15. I have to say, I agree with the guy. He is technically paying for your food, and he shouldn't have to also stand behind you in line and waste time since he probably has a job to get to. there is enough donated food in this country that people like you who can't afford groceries should be fine getting by at the food banks. You don't also need to use our tax dollars and shop at the grocery store because you don't like with the food bank has

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    1. Your ignorance is disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself.

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    2. Come judgment day, you will be judged in the measure by which you judge other people.

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    3. I'm not trying to be mean, I'm just saying it's ridiculous that she has the right to buy whatever the hell she wants on my dime. She's said before that she goes to a food bank, fine, eat there. I would be mad too if I were that guy. Its not fair that I'm buying her groceries and letting her waste my time.

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    4. If you got a tax refund this year then she's not using "your dime". Only the people who actually PAID taxes (as in, they sent checks? Didn't GET one?) get to bitch. I'll bet you got a big fat refund for using every loophole you could so that MY tax money gets paid over to people like YOU!

      And how about the fact that MY tax money gets spent on road maintenance so that selfish thoughtless people like you can drive drunk? (Please, don't even tell me that some crabby asshat like you hasn't "had a few" and got behind the wheel? I'm sure you were too impatient to be responsible. Or feeling entitled to drive anyway, despite debilitation.)

      Get over yourself; everybody in this country is using various resources that OTHER PEOPLES TAX MONEY paid for (hey, how about the childless people whose taxes go for local schools? Do they get to run over the little buggers swarming the streets at 2:30 each day... after all, THEY'RE in a car, and going someplace important, obviously, so God forbid they should drive 25 mph in a school zone, they don't have kids and they had to pay out for those munchkin parasites entire day there already so why make any more concessions? Save that 30 seconds, drive faster! You're ENTITLED!)

      Seriously, you're actually begrudging her feeding her kids properly because the state screwed up the benefits she was entitled to, because her husband was getting credit for paying child support that he DIDN"T PAY? If you follow this at all you shouldn't be making such ignorant remarks, and if you don't, get out of here and just peddle your whining trollishness elsewhere.

      (And let's see how you feel if/when your job get eliminated and you have to worry about YOUR food. !!! Although I'll bet you probably have a gut the size of Texas that you could afford to lose, you sound pretty greedy and self indulgent too.)

      People like yourself (bet you're a man and white and have some money in your pocket so you don't have to feel compassion for anybody else) make me hope that what goes around comes around and you get to experience just ONE day in the shoes of somebody who is trapped by oppressive circumstances, it might make you a bit less mean spirited. (Doubt it, but anything is possible.)

      But all I can do is hope Karma catches up with you and gives you one of those major life lessons that humbles you.

      (O.k., now see how it feels to be judged based on very little and given a ration because somebody else thinks you're something under a rock? Not fun, huh?)

      Still, most of the "assumptions" are probably TRUE!

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    5. But the man wasn't inconvenienced by her having a SNAP card, it was the fact there was a glitch with the card, that can happen with any debit or credit card. Would you have thought him justified standing behind someone whose credit card wasn't working and publicly humiliate them?

      And I don't know about food banks in The States, but in Britain you don't get fresh food in them, only dry and canned goods. Are you saying you don't think poor people should be allowed to buy fresh food, just in case there's a problem with their card at checkout?

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    6. I'm saying that I'm tired of paying out my taxes to people who didn't plan thier lives well enough to be able to provide for the kids they had. Eden chose the wrong man, had kids with him, and now gets all riled up when she doesnt get her "benefits." Forget being patient, someone should run her the fuck over in the parking lot and get her off the state's dime.

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    7. Let's hope some day YOU get run over and are totally disabled and end up on the tax dime, and of course it will be because you didn't plan your life well enough, right? Yes, let's all be omniscient and know the outcome of every decision we make in advance! Hope you aren't in the service industry, if you are I bet you spit in everybody's coffee. Know what I'M tired of? People like you who think their tax money should only go for certain things. You're probably happy it buys bullets and bombs, right?

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    8. Me, me, me, me, me. You're the ONLY taxpayer, aren't you? Did you even owe money to the IRS this year? You're entitled to your beliefs, but like with that guy, airing them in an inappropriate place is going to have people think you're an asshole. Not because of your beliefs, but because you just don't know when to shut up.

      Seriously dude. Hop off Eden's blog and go jerk off to your reflection or a picture of Ayn Rand.

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    9. Eden does what she can to help abuse survivors. She has so little resources and time, and yet she uses them to help others. She's raising her kids to be healthy, responsible, caring people. What are you contributing? Negativity. Judgement. Hatred. World has enough of that already. If anyone should be run over in a parking lot, it's you. We need her and more people like her.

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    10. Wowzers. Not even sure what to say to this. Thanks to everyone with your helpful comments, I'm glad that they were there when I read the nasty ones!!!

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    11. Pay taxes still doesn't make anyone entitled to be rude and disrespectful. Laws are made so everyone can live in society, not only the ones who have money on their pockets.

      Otherwise, you, that man, and every other human being would start to be "ranked" by the amount on their bank accounts - would you like to be places in a line in a place "accordingly" with how much you earn per year? Maybe you should have less access to education for your kids? People should be throw out hospital beds to give place to richer people.

      There is no thing like equal rights if people who have more money in their bank account are "more equals" than others".

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    12. Unfortunately America is already like that. Most people can't afford college, or even good primary schools. If you don't have enough money to buy health insurance, doctor's won't see you. Hospitals won't give you the tests you need or the care you require. In America you are very much ranked by how much money you make. It's sad.

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  16. I want to give that cashier a huge hug.

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  17. That guy is an ass. But the cashier should totally get a raise and win employee of the year.

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    1. Very true. I'm going to stop into the store this week and give her props to the manager :)

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  18. _Love_ that cashier! (Think you should go back and write a grateful "helpful employee" card about her... especially since you _know_ that guy complained about her!) Actually, you should have your kids make her a cute little thank-you card "for being nice", and bring it with you next time you go there. Tell her it's from all the poor mothers who have to deal with that kind of hassle, and how much you appreciated her giving him the figurative one finger salute. ;-) Really though, have you noticed that a lot of guys like that are cranky and impatient and feel like the center of the universe anyway? So it wasn't just your being on food stamps. Honestly. Believe me, he'd have made snarky comments for any reason (if you had a wailing little kid, if you had too many items in the 10 or less line, if you made them go look up a sale price that wasn't being credited by the cash register, if you were obese and moving too slowly for him, if you took too long going through your coupon folder, you name it.) People like that will mouth off any time they feel obstructed by life (they blow their car horn, they cut people off, they are just asshats, as everybody said.) Next time you should just turn to him and say w/a deadpan face, "Your mother must be SO proud of you..." then put on a woefully sad regretful look (like he's a lost cause or a grim road accident) & look away as if you can't even look upon him any longer. (Really, there he is bullying a penniless mother of small children so he can save 2 min of his "valuable time." What kind of jackass is that?) Alternately, you could've embarrassed him like my one friend used to do (the one who would grab her boob & say, Speak to the left side, there's a mike in there! when guys would gape at her cleavage instead of looking at her face) ;-) and said very loudly and in a sobby almost crying with gratitude (i.e really over the top) kind of voice, "Oh thank you for your patience and understanding, my hungry children and I are so grateful for your compassion, it's people like you who show me what they mean when they say 'What Would Jesus Do?!', I'm sure you must be such a kind person!" (and widened those big blue eyes and put a hand on your heart.) Then you could've smiled widely and started clapping your hands towards him (applause!) I'm _sure_ he would've turned beet red by then. ;-)

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    1. Yes!!! It's always the cranky people that feel the most entitled. I'm sure there is a psychological issue in there somewhere!

      That's pretty funny about your friend's boob haha! I would have loved to see the look on the guy's faces!!

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  19. I would have looked at him and said something to the extent of you do actually work, but I bet it would have been met with you should have finished school and gotten a better job before having children.
    I don't understand why it is that people need to judge, no one is perfect, even if they act it.
    I'm glad that you had someone willing to stand up for you, someone needs to show him that what he is doing is unacceptable.
    Around here, most the cashiers are on welfare because the pay is so little. Maybe that's why she stood up for you like that.

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    1. I wish I had said anything! I was just trying not to cry :( I was very lucky to have a great cashier. Otherwise this would have been a whole different post, and true, she may have been on assistance as well.

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  20. That was awesome. To hell with that guy. This scorn for people who need assistance has to stop. #pettyrevenge

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  21. I never leave comments. But I have to say as I read what he told you the first time I ACTUALLY GASPED OUT LOUD...in my room...alone. I can't (well sadly I can) believe someone would be so obnoxiously ignorant, insensitive and just such a douchey fucker to yell that out to a stranger...especially when he has no idea of what you've gone through or what you're going through. Also it's none of his fucking business. I'm also sad no one told him anything. Although a million karma points should go to you and the cashier ☺

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    1. GASP!

      I know, I think if I had read it instead of lived it I totally would have done the same thing!

      That cashier rocked :)

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  22. This made me sad. I grew up on foodstamps. I would not have been able to eat as a child without them. I'm younger then you and my heart was going in to Mama Bear mode for you. That cashier was great, but with my unperfect nature had I been one of the other shoppers just overhearing him speaking that I would have not been able to stop myself from shutting him down. I may not be always that good at sticking up for myself, but it isn't in me to just watch someone else be shamed like that.

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    1. Aw, you are sweet. I wish you had been in line with me lol!

      I agree, it's always easier to stand up for other people than ourselves. I'm still working on being better about realizing I deserve my own "defense" as much as anyone else does.

      *hugs*

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