Today I’m on the Express Lane. (“12 items or less” — that ought to read “12 items or fewer”, but groceries are hardly models of grammar and punctuation.) I’m not a “number Nazi” — if the other registers are busy, I don’t care if you’ve two dozen items; my goal is to get you checked out and on your way. It’s a good thing I’m on the express lane, because I have to keep pausing:
“Ah-CHOO! Ah-CHOO!” I remove my face from my elbow, and turn back to my register, where I rub my hands with sanitizer foam.
“Hi there! Did you find everything for which you were looking?” bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep “Any coupons?” bleep “Okay, that’ll be $14.67, if you please.”
“What if I don’t please?” grins a puckish guy.
“That’ll still be $14.67,” I grin back. “Out of $20? That’s $5.33 in change, there’s the 33 cents, and 5 — ” I screw up my face long enough to turn away — “Ah-CHOO! Ah-CHOO!” I remove my face from my elbow, and return back to my register, where I rub my hands with sanitizer foam.
“I got my receipt.”
“Thank you; here’s your bag. You have a good day.”
Two hours later, I’m still sneezing. (Twice at a time; I sneeze twice, my kids sneeze twice, and my grandson sneezes twice. Funny what-all the genome encodes.)
One of the mysteries of retail is that no matter when people arrive at the store, “everybody” wants to check out at once. There are lulls, and then there are lines, and lulls again that enable me to wipe the schmutz off the scanner glass, straighten up the candy bars, and finish unwrapping partially-peeled rolls of coins.
“Hah-CHOO! Hah-CHOO!” Once again, I remove my face from my elbow, and return back to my register, where I re-rub my now-chapped hands with sanitizer foam.
During such a lull, I speak across the eight-feet gap to another checker, “Are you wearing perfume?” When she replies affirmatively, I surmise, “Oh, that must be why I’m sneezing.”
“Oh, it’s not very strong. And I only use a little. It smells very nice,” she asserts, sniffing her sleeve, “I put it on at 5:30 this morning!”
So what if that was hours ago? Hun, if I’m sneezing this far away, it’s stronger than you think.
“Ah-pppbllh! Ah-pppbllh! *sniff*” I go up to the Customer Service desk for a handful of tissues, and return to check the next cluster of customers.
Come the next lull, she wanders over, defensively insisting that her perfume isn’t strong. “Maybe I’m catching something,” I offer as a conciliatory alternative, wondering if my affect had not come across the right way earlier. She appears to be one of those really social people who liked to chit-chat with others, and I’ve begun to realize that in such interchanges, style trumps content, and “verbal grooming” trumps practical considerations.
Thankfully this was just a four-hour shift, because my night’s sleep had not been much longer than that. I go home for lunch and after my short nap, am not surprised to find that I’m no longer sneezing.
And that, O Best Beloved, is why I don’t wear scented body products during any of my jobs.