29 May 2009

Unease at the checkout

So suppose you decided to take a long vacation in the UK, and to make it feel more like home you rent a small flat. Once you get over the teensy appliances (more on that later), you figure it's time to stock the larder. So you head off to one of the local grocery stores, Waitrose/Sainsbury/Tesco/whatever, load up your cart/basket/arms, and head for the checkout. One of the first things you'll notice is that the person working the till is a good bit shorter than you're used to; this is because they're seated. So you watch your selections being rung up as you silently think of how cushy cashiers have it here, recalling how you had to stand for hours while working the register at that after school job at Dominicks. Then the total is tallied, you pay the amount due, get your change, and...

...and the uncomfortable stare-down begins. You've just paid for your goods and want them placed in a bag, but the cashier is just looking at you with that retail-worker's “would you move along now” smile, leaving you unsure about what to do next. This is a common stumbling block for Americans, and it's because many UK stores don't bag your goods for you. Talk about cushy-- you have no idea how conditioned you've become to the simply luxury of having your groceries bagged for you, nor how untethered you become when someone doesn't simply do it for you.

But you have yet to learn that you've expected to handle this yourself, so the silent, awkward face-off begins. Most likely what will happen is that cashier will eventually say something like “you'll find the bags over there”, at which point it will dawn on you that you'll have to look after this yourself.


  1. But you're a man! You can't bag your own groceries. That's women's work.

  2. Hey, even single men need to buy beer, chips and dip. And no fair complaining to my wife about not responding to comments!

  3. Careful now. You're not allowed to be provided with carrier bags anymore because the planet will burst into flames or something.
    You must bring your own shopping bags; apparently they must be made from canvas too.
    Single men may retain their superficial layer of manliness by bringing a maountaineering-style rucksack for the booze and scoff.