There’s a whole lot going on at the supermarket checkout line. I’m a people watcher by nature and am always fascinated by the reactions of customers to life’s little inconveniences as they rush to get on with wherever they are going.

I like to while away the minutes by analyzing other people’s grocery selections. There are those who buy the same kind of stuff I do: yogurt, skim milk, oatmeal, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole wheat bread. We exchange knowing superior glances with one another. We’re special.

I once heard a young mother admonishing her toddler, “Now, Henry, you know we only eat organic food and that’s not organic.” Poor Henry had been eyeing some sugary cupcakes. 

Then there are the carriages loaded with soda, whole milk, cookies, chips, white bread and pizza. Horrors! I once heard a shopper excusing her carriage’s contents of salty, fatty snack food and a case of beer to the food snobs in line, “We’re having a bunch of people over to watch football on our triple-sized flat-screen TV,” she said apologetically. We indicated that it was OK, but just this once.

The most entertaining is the express line. There are shoppers with two items and they really want to get out of there. You can watch them methodically counting the purchases in other carriages, and muttering, “some people have a nerve.” Then there are the shoppers who return glare for glare with a “who cares” attitude. They’ll check out wherever they choose and if there’s one checkout person with a loaf of bread at the head of the express line, they’ll get right in with their 32 items, many of which need to be weighed. I’ve been in a position where I approach the well-loaded registers with my well-loaded basket and a manager waves me over to the quick checkout line which is, at the moment, empty. I start to unload and suddenly someone with a loaf of bread appears to shower some guilt on me. I feel obligated to explain to my fellow shoppers that the manager made me do it. 

Did you ever suddenly realize there are items in your basket that you didn’t put there. And then realize it’s not even your basket. If I see bananas, I know I’ve switched to the wrong carriage. I hate bananas.

There is, more often than not, an item in my basket that has no price code. The impatient shoppers behind me, in the ever-growing line, must wait while someone is summoned and sent to locate the offending item. This takes time, but it offers the opportunity to scan the latest scandal magazines for the news on Angelina and Brad. Of course, I would never buy them, but one can always glance at the headlines, while no one’s looking.  There’s nothing else to do.

My daughter-in-law, on a summer visit, was checking out a few items when she heard a familiar voice. “It sounded just like Whoopi Goldberg,” she told me later. And you know what? It was Whoopi Goldberg.

Next time you’re grocery shopping, enjoy the show.