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Russian Through the Checkout Line


Last Edited: October 15, 2017, 10:20 am

Another story from my blog.  What with all the Russian hacking fake news, I thought I'd share my experience with a Russian...but it involved sacking, not hacking.  (although hacking IS mentioned)

I was out and about (that's "oot and aboot" to all my loyal readers from Canada) and decided I should pick up a few items at the grocery store. It was right at five o'clock, quittin' time, and I knew the store would be crowded.

That was all right, though; I have more time than money and besides that, that's when the working women hit the store, on their way home from work. Granted, most of 'em are married women, and many of those are angry from having to add another harried 30 minutes to an already long workday, trying to find something to fix for the family's evening meal. Still, sometimes it's nice to be around so many people, esp. women. I sometimes go for days without any social intercourse.(and let's not even mention the other kind)

I got what I wanted, some apples--diff. kinds, a couple of lemons, some other fruits and veggies, some ground round patties, some diet soda. I really needed an onion, though, as I was craving hot dogs. I got some chili, some buns, I had some weiners in the freezer. I picked out a nice, sweet onion, Texas raised...got one that was rounder than I liked, the flat ones seem milder and sweeter. (and isn't just my own opinion, but what the produce people have told me after I commented on noticing the difference)

I like to grocery shop again; for the longest time, esp. after I found out I had diabetes, it wasn't much fun because I didn't think there was much I could eat. Since I've got all that sorted out, it's almost a game seeing what new food items I can have or try for the first time.

The crowd finally thinned out and I made my way to the shortest line. I let a woman who had only a carry basket go in front of me and then had to endure some scathing looks from another woman with a full cart who thought I should extend the same courtesy to her. I might have done so, but the checker was having some problems with each customer in line before me and it was at least fifteen minutes before it was my turn.

I finally had my cart's few items being scanned, and the young, pretty, but obviously flustered girl said, in a heavy accent, "Hope you find the things all right!?!"

I smiled, nodded, and got out my debit card, ready to swipe it when the transaction was complete. (I wasn't going to make anyone wait on me!) My checker's name tag said she was "Tatiania" and I started to ask her what nationality she was. Russian, I figured from the name and accent, or from some Eastern European, ex-Soviet bloc nation.

Before I could ask the question, I was interrupted by a sack girl, one of the many high school kids the store hires for part-time, after-school jobs.

"Paper or plastic." she asked, not even a question, but said in a dull monotone.

This young lady has sacked my stuff before. I made an effort to keep an eye on her exactly because of that, but then she started coughing in my direction.

(this is the same girl who a few weeks before had placed my bread in the bottom of the sack, put my first pint of ice cream I had bought in nearly two years on top of it, then crammed in my hot deli chicken alongside the other two items. Oh, well, chicken sandwiches ala mode ain't too bad)

Ordinarily, this is where I'd hold out my debit card in one hand, a few bills in the other and say "Paper...or plastic?" Sometimes it gets a laugh, sometimes not. I decided against the joke this time, I didn't want to waste it on this little ol' gal. If she couldn't grasp that one should not package hot stuff with cold or put heavy stuff atop light, soft things, then my "punny" jokes would probably go right over her head.

(I would also bet she wasn't saving for college, just a hunch. I know entrance standards have been lowered, but...)

I made the sign of the cross towards her, as if to ward off the evil eye. There's nuthin' worse than a summer cold.

"What's wrong with you?" I challenged, but backing away. No one wants to be sick, but I sure didn't, not if it can be avoided.

"Oh, nothink! I do not see the code...the stick-air on fruit!" said the cashier, frowning at me, mistakenly thinking I was talking to her.

"No, no!" I assured the cashier. "I was talking to..."

"Bronchitis." interrupted the sacker, who then proceeded to show me how bad it was with a series of hacking coughs, aimed right at me as if to punctuate the severity of her illness.

"Bronchitis?" I repeated, trying to be polite, while trying to dodge the billions of airborne germs heading right for my own mucous membranes. No matter what, I had no plans to tip her. She'd have to settle for my feigned concern as her gratuity.

"No, I 'zink these are the Gran-nee Smith." said the cashier holding up my apples, still thinking I'm talking to her.

"Huh." droned the sophomoric sophomore, thinking the checker was speaking to her. "Say what?"

Now, when faced with one confused woman, it's best to be cautious and listen and interrupt only to clarify a point. When dealing with TWO confused women, it's best to just shut the hell up.

I didn't even want to look them in the eye, afraid that might start the convaluted conversation up again, but no such luck. As I was looking down at anything but the two women staring at me, I saw my Texas Sweet onion roll over onto the scale as the cashier was weighing the green apples.

"Uh..." I stammered. "That onion...."

"No, no." said the cashier, scanning the next item, another bag of apples. "These, these red apples, the Dee-leeesh-us kind...and no stick-air on them, either!" she said accusingly.

"I didn't look to see if they had it on 'em." I said. "Sorry." I suddenly realized it wasn't my place to make sure the stick-air...er, the sticker was on the produce and why the hell was I apologizing? I started to say so.

"Is ok, I know code!" she said proudly, punching it into the keyboard, something right going on for the first time for several customers.

"Well, no...." I said, trying to be forceful. "That's not it. That onion...." attempting to bring to her attention the fact that I had been paying for that onion each and every time she weighed something. "It's on the scale."

"Is not yours?" she asked. "I have yet to scan!"

"No," I told her "It was on the scale."

With an annoyed look and a slight brush of the hand, she pushed the offending vegetable off the scale, where it promptly rolled back onto the edge of the scale. She weighed the red apples, only three, but they were on sale and I watched it ring up three bucks and something .

"Uh, it rolled back on." I told her. She pushed the onion back with another impatient movement and went on weighing out the rest of my produce.

It rolled back on the scale. "Uh, that onion is back on there." I told her.

"You say was yours!" she said, furrowing her eyebrows at me.

"Well..." I tried to explain. "You kept pushing it off the scale, but it would roll back on!"

"Is OK." she assured me. About that time I heard another explosive cough and felt a few drops of moisture hit my arm. Gag. I hoped a bird was overhead.

"You should go home!" I sternly informed the sack girl, digging out my handkerchief. I wondered if I should wipe off the contagion or give it to her to cover her mouth.

"I am citizen!" exclaimed the checkout girl, now standing defiantly, hands on hips.

"No, no!" I assured the young woman. "I was talking to her, she should go home if she is sick!"

"They won't let me." pouted the sacker, now piling my apples on my hot dog buns.

"Uh, that bread needs to be...." I tried to point out what the young girl was doing, but she was now giving off little coughs like machine gun blasts, probably trying to get the attention of the boss.

"I am legal citizen." said the cashier in a soft, hurt voice, giving me a frown as she continued scanning my items, the onion still on the scale.

I shook my head "No, the bread...."

"Where?" interjected the cashier. "I have scanned bread!" she exclaimed, looking in the sack. "See!" and pulled out the squished buns, then throwing them back. Miss Hacking Cough picked them up and threw them back into the sack. At least they were now on top.

I just sighed and watched the onion roll back onto the scale with my asparagus. Now, that particular veggie wasn't on sale, and is expensive even when ON sale. I certainly didn't want "onion weight" on my asparagus.

"Uh...that onion." I said, reaching over to push it back..and then an alarm went off on the register.

"What problem is this?" she said. "What you do?" She was very angry now. Oh great, I thought, she thinks I told her to leave America and now have been messin' with her machine. I looked up; people in other lines were staring at the commotion.

"I didn't touch nuthin'!" I protested. I turned to the sack girl for witness verification, but she had become bored with smashing my bread under the weight of produce and moved on to another line.

I turned back to the transaction.

"Oh. Is printer." said the cashier, attempting to open the cover.

I nodded, glad she could see it wasn't my fault. It was just jammed, and after opening up the cover with a savage turn of the catch, she peered inside, poking around the innards with the end of a pencil. Then, accompanied with what I thought were probably Russian curse words, she slammed down the cover. With a quick slap to the side of the printer, the alarm went silent and she went back to scanning my items. I could see my receipt coiling up inside the cover.

I was so relieved that we were now moving along again, but the onion deal was really bothering me. I told her "Say, that onion kept rolling onto the scale when you were weighing things." I pointed to the onion, now cuddled up with my asparagus.

I stepped back just in case she treated me like the printer cover.

Again, with a flick of the hand, she pushed it back and then went back to her "cheat sheet", trying to find the code for asparagus. The onion rolled back to be with the asparagus.

I guess they were meant to be.

The young sack girl was back, dammit. She started griping about having to work when sick, especially having to work past the start of the Homecoming football game that night. I was sure if they let her off work, she'd suddenly become better in time for the game. I ignored her, having been through teenage angst once in my life and not particularly wanting to experience it again.

She suddenly coughed again, spittle landing all over me...again.  The handkerchief was balled up in my hand, just the right size to cram in her mouth.

I had had enough, I was getting about 25 bucks worth of stuff, the total was over that already and I still had things to be scanned...and I would be darned if I was going to pay for that onion over and over and over again!

Ever been hungry and fed-up at the same time? Gives ME a headache.

I told her "Wait a minute. You've weighed that onion with almost all my stuff."

"No." she assured me. "I push back!"

"Sorry." I told her firmly. "It's been on there all this time, keeps rolling back on!" I made a mental note to buy a flatter onion next time. I'd already made one to avoid this girl's line next time; I thought I might bribe someone to get a copy of the work schedule so I could altogether avoid the days she worked.

"I saw that too." said a lady behind me...not the one who had been angry with me for not letting her cut in line too, but another lady. A nice lady. The other had gone to the back of a longer line and had already been checked out and was long gone. "You've weighed several things with that onion on the scale, hon." said the lady to the cashier.

"Oh." said the now chastised girl. "You want me to weigh again the what? The apples?" She was talking to the woman...and kept talking, now ignoring me. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard the checker point at the magazine the woman was holding and declare "That Brat Peet, he so cute, too good for that woman!" I cleared my throat, a little too loudly. I think it probably sounded like a constipated lion.

"For a start you can weigh those apples again." I told her. Back to being defiant, she pulled the red apples out of the bag and off of my hot dog buns -not sure how they got under there again, but I wasn't surprised- and sat them down rather roughly, then scrolled back up the computer screen to compare.

"See!" she said. "Same weight!"

I was getting annoyed; I hate bruised apples.

"Same onion on the scale. " I told her curtly, pointing at the onion. She pushed it off--again--and weighed--again--and the onion rolled back onto the scale--again. I wanted to scream at her by now, I wanted to throw the onion to the back of the store. I didn't even want a sweet onion now, I would make do with the sulphuric-tasting, eyeball-searing, instant-heartburn-causing red onion I had bought from this store a couple days ago, been sorely disappointed in and was replacing with this purchase.

The checker picked up the bag of apples, dropping them on the scale again. Same weight.

"See?" she announced. "Same weight, each time!" and picked them up, letting them fall on the scale several times. I was wondering if I had a recipe for sugar-free applesauce. I wondered if there was money in grocery scale repair. I wondered why I had come in here to begin with, I thought I had a couple cans of vienna sausages I could've eaten, surely I had a box of crackers somewhere in the pantry.

My head was pounding.

I had had enough. I pointed at the onion. "Move that off the scale." I said in a commanding tone. I'm an easy-going guy, but don't have a problem showing my displeasure when being cheated or mistreated.

The checker just looked at me. I stabbed my finger again towards the onion. "Move it!" I said in my driller's voice, the one I used to use to get someone's attention over the roar of huge diesel engines. I'm sure she could see the vein pulsing in my forehead because I certainly could feel it, it was the size of a python that had just swallowed a pig. I hoped that tightness in my chest was from indigestion or anxiety.

Shocked, the checker pushed the onion off the scale. She was eyeing me a little differently, still angry with me but also a little fear in her eyes. Good, I thought.

"Take it and put it OFF THE LEDGE!" I commanded. "Get it away from the scale!!!"

She complied, she had no choice . I was Reagan, she was Gorbachev. Don't push me, I'll nuke Moscow.

NOW the scale read correctly and there WAS a noticeable difference, but I couldn't tell you what it was in weight even when she showed me the barely recognizable slip, having to fish it out of the printer with a pair of sharp-pointed scissors.

"Oh. " she said. "Oh." repeated the cashier quietly, comparing the difference in the weight.

"I will have to do the void now." she looked at me with pleading eyes.

"Fine." I said curtly, in my best petulant manner. I wasn't letting her off lightly, not now, even though she still held the scissors. I was ready to start deportation proceedings, right then 'n there. Maybe the judge would personally let me tear up her green card.

I took a deep breath; I'm not normally a rude person and wanted to show it. To someone. Anyone. The pain in my brain said to climb up on the clock tower with a rifle, but my mother's voice came into my head. "Now, Michael...."

"Sorry to make you wait." I sheepishly apologized to the woman behind me.

"Thass all right hon." she said, not even looking up from where she was reading something from one of the tabloids in the impulse rack. I noticed where Brad and Angelina were feuding. Again.

The void wouldn't take, though. The cashier tried a dozen times without any success before calling a young man, some assistant's assistant from the looks of him, over to help. She explained what she thought had happened and he puffed up with self-importance as he explained to her the procedure, voiding out the purchase, re-weighing and then punching in the code. The only problem was, it didn't work for HIM, either. It was almost worth it to watch him deflate.

My temples pulsed with every beat of my heart. I was sure I had a brain tumor.

She put in a call to a manager. I saw people going out the store with their purchases who had come in while I was standing in line. The lady who had been behind me had moved on to the back of another busy line and was now being checked out.

Silently, we both stood there, waiting on the manager. I thought of nice things, tried to go to a happy place in my mind. As the tension ebbed from my body, I felt some of the pain leave as well. I felt a little ashamed of losing my temper earlier. I attempted to ask the question I had been wanting to ask.

"You Russian??

"Yes." she said. "Has been busy all the day afternoon! Rush, rush rush, all the day!"

I was perplexed for a moment and when it hit me, I replied, laughing at the miscommunication:

"No...are you Russian? From Russia. "

"Oh, yes. " she said distractedly, peering into the bowels of the printer, where my receipt looked like it had been chewed up by a goat....and digested. Silence. She didn't want small talk. She still had the scissors in her hand, so I didn't push it.

I mumbled something about "welcome to Texas" but my heart wasn't in it.

"Romanian." she announced, holding up my asparagus.

"No, I think that's some sort of lettuce." I corrected her, "That's asparagus..."

"No." she firmly told me. "This is the asparagus, you not have lettuce! Where your lettuce?" and she looked in the nearly-empty basket, getting visibly angry with me again. I didn't know what to say, thinking I had been watching too many Twilight Zone reruns or perhaps this was some reality prank TV show. I looked around for hidden cameras.

"I am Romanian." she informed me after I said absolutely nothing, not knowing WHAT to say.

I stared at her. "I thought you said you were Russian."

"I am, my papa, he is, but I born Romania. "

Oh, I thought, as the stabbing pain returned, this time centered right between my eyeballs. That explains everything....or nothing, depending upon one's viewpoint I suppose. The pain between my eyes got so bad, I was having problems trying to remember what exactly were the symptoms of a stroke. I wanted out of there if for no other reason than to die in the sunshine, not having my last view of life being that of curious faces ringing my prone form, the rack of Juicy Fruit and Altoids being the last thing I see. I wanted to eat one more Snickers before I died.

"I speak Russian. " she said, out of the blue. There was no one behind me in line now, even though there were crowded lines in all the other lanes. I'm sure my lane was giving off bad vibes to everyone and they were avoiding it like the plague. Folks would rather go through a hold up by a robber than a hold up in a check-out line.

I nodded my head; I had guessed her accent!

Nope, don't do that. That hurt. Pregnant pause. Silence hurt too. My eyes started filling up from the pain.

Aw, what the heck, it's only money. I was dyin' anyway. I didn't want to depart this mortal coil with anger in my heart. I blinked away the tears.

"Just go on." I told her, "Forget it." I was tired of waiting and I couldn't see very well. I guessed even the managers were avoiding her line now. She looked at me, a tentative hopeful expression on her sweet Slavic face.

I certainly wasn't gonna bring out my Russian jokes to kill the time.

"Go on." I urged her. "It's OK. Just let it go." I wished I hadn't seen the onion on the scale, wished I had been cheated without knowing, wished to hell I had never said anything.

She TRIED to forget it, tried to go on with the transaction, but the register wouldn't budge. My apples took a few more bounces in the attempts to get a weight. Another checker came over to help. No joy. More apple bounces. We continued waiting on the manager. She tried the other bag of apples for some reason. They certainly needed to be bounced too, just to match the others.

The headache was coming back with a vengance. I needed an aspirin. No, I needed a bottle of aspirin, two bottles. No, no...a bottle of aspirin, washed down with a bottle of whiskey. Then a 1/2" drill for a borehole to relieve the pressure in my skull.

"I speak several other of languages." I was informed during the lull. I think she was trying to prove to me that she was smarter than it seemed. Not smarter than that cash register, I thought.

"How long you been here?" I inquired, trying to be polite, even though my brain was splitting in two.

"Since two o'clock." said the cashier.

"No." I said, shaking my head. Ouch, that hurt. "How long in America?"

"Three years." came the reply. The manager still was nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, so was Hack Girl.

Impulsively, I decided to ask "Say, you know Nadia Comaneci ?"

I didn't get enough of a puzzled look to make the joke worthwhile. I could see the light bulb going off in her head.

"Ah, yes, the gymnast? She defect to America long time ago!" she informed me.

"Uh, yeah, I knew that...she lives in Texas, actually...." I said.

"She move HERE?" the cashier asked incredulously, pointing at the ground.

"Uh...Houston, I think." I replied. She nodded her head, as if to say she wished SHE was in Houston right at this moment. I wished I were there, too. Anywhere. Russia would be fine by me, Siberia, the cold would be nice, I thought. My headache got worse.

"She married Bart Conner...." I trailed off. I'm not even going to waste trivia on this event, I decided.

"I know him. " said the sack girl, appearing from nowhere again. "He's in my Social Studies class...I think."

Not worth the effort to explain, I thought.

The manager finally showed up, the sack girl disappeared in a exaggerated huff and an even more pronounced exaggerated cough, (must have been THIS mgr. that refused to let her go home) the cashier explained about the onion, the apples and he punched a few buttons, re-weighed the apples and said "Was that it? Anything else?"

I eyed the produce already sacked (and atop smashed hot dog buns, of course).

"Yes. Uh, no." I wearily said, trying to answer his questions in correct order. There were only a few more items to go, no produce. What would a few cans on top of my bread hurt now?

Plenty, I thought, getting angry again, thinking of my hot dogs I was planning to make sometime this weekend. I make darn good hot dogs. I had my mouth set on 'em, and I didn't want what little presentation I could muster with that food ruined by the appearance of flat buns. I didn't want to have to use a fork to eat my hot dogs! That ain't right.

The package wasn't completely smashed, so I tried to get my bread out of the bottom of the sack but was suddenly pushed aside by the same coughing girl who showed up once again out of nowhere.

"You should quit smoking." I said irritably, stepping aside, not wanting to have any more contact with her than necessary. She'd already given me enough of her phlegm to qualify as intimacy. She was about sixteen; Statutory Infection. I could feel her germs coursing through my body, they were probably what was giving me more of a headache than mere hunger and frustration would normally do.

"I don't smoke!" said the girl, indignant.

"Maybe you should take it up." I said, not bothering to hide my irritability. "It'll either cure that cough or kill ya." I would settle for either one.

Finally, the cashier finished scanning my other items, the onion nowhere to be found. "Where's that onion?" I asked. I would be darned if I was leaving without that onion.

"In here, with your bread." grunted the young sacker, holding up an overloaded plastic sack, bulging at the seams with produce and a few canned goods thrown on top for good measure. She also coughed into the sack for more good measure.

Just as I was about to command the girl go get me another pkg. of buns, the cashier got done.

"You pay now." she said, pointing as though holding a gun towards the debit card reader, even bending her thumb as if it were the hammer of a pistol . I backed off at the sudden motion. Russians had nukes, too.

"I already have." making my own pistol fist, pointing to the credit/debit card interface. The cold war had fired up again. When she pointedly looked down at the card machine, so did I.

Uh oh, I hadn't put in if I wanted any money back. I quickly pushed "NO" because I was sure I would get screwed if I got any extra cash. I was already paying gold bullion prices for asparagus.

"See?" said the cashier. "Your apples, they marked correct!" all the while holding up the mangled receipt. "You good... mistake fixed...." she did the math in her head.

"Thirty four cents!" she said in a too-loud voice, holding up the shredded slip for all to see. I saw several checkers and customers in line shake their heads. Now they thought I was a cheapskate, just great.

"Ok, thanks." I said, now a beaten and humiliated man. I tried to get my sacks away from the coughing girl, but she insisted on carrying them. The manager was watching her. He might send her home for good, forever. I could always hope.

I grabbed a couple of empty sacks so I could repack the few items when I got out to my vehicle. I briefly considered going into their bathroom, tying one around my head; at least they'd have to clean up the mess.

"Moldova!" said the cashier to me, as I was leaving. Surprised at her turnaround in attitude, I returned what I thought was the Romanian salutation with a wave of my hand.

"Moldova to you, too."

The cashier shook her head, she now had plenty of time to talk, no one was coming near her lane.

"No, I'm from Moldova, where I live before here."

That just made my head hurt all the more.

You know, I hate to stereotype, it's not a good thing, but I'm thinkin' I hate Russians, Romanians, and Moldavans, esp. young pretty ones.

Even though she's now a Texan, Nadia can go to hell, too.

Entry #24


konaneComment by konane - October 15, 2017, 8:54 am
That is too funny!
lakerbenComment by lakerben - October 15, 2017, 11:55 am
eddessaknightComment by eddessaknight - October 15, 2017, 5:59 pm
Great piece of writing, I might add-
mikeintexasComment by mikeintexas - October 16, 2017, 1:16 am
Thank ya'll.

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