Sunday, May 06, 2007

Creaping Monkism.

As I get older, I am finding that little things are driving me nuts. Take the grocery checkout for example.

I do the grocery shopping for the family in exchange for not doing the bills. First, I am better at it because I do not dance to the piped in Muzak in the aisles and second I do not buy peripheral kitchen gadgets and unneeded items such as melon ballers and motor oil.

Third, as James Bond would say, it gives me "license to snack". Tastykakes, Entemans and other goodies make their way into my cart that would not if say, someone else who is female and lives with us did the shopping.

My previous work in the area of food shopping phenomena includes theories such as "The shopping buddy". The shopping buddy is anyone that enter the food store within 2 minutes of your arrival and tends to migrate through the store in exactly the same patterns as you do. You then spend the next hour and half passing them in the soup, cookie and pasta aisle while they pass you in the canned goods, condiments and beverages. This back and forth reaches it's climax as you both race for a checkout.

The opposite of this theory is the sinister and evil "Anti-Shopping buddy". This is where these same people migrate down the aisle in patterns opposite yours so that you intercept them in every single aisle.

Last week I had a stunningly beautiful woman in sun dress as my "Anti-Shopping" buddy. I spent the entire shopping trip pushing myself to concentrate on the food shopping. I wound up $40 over budget and it was all her fault. I bought crap I normally wouldn't have only to keep my attention turned to groceries. "look at the pasta, look at the pasta, look at the pasta - look pasta is on sale". I would like to note that even in my distracted state I did not buy a mellon baller.

Don't get me started on deli-counter inefficiencies or bread and milk placement issues.

Today's topic is the checkout. The single most frustrating thing to me is the mis-use of the shopping bag carousel at the checkout. The carousel is a relatively new development in my local Shoprite. It is like a lazy-susan with six of those plastic shopping bag dispensers and a small circular counter on top and in the center.

The theory of operation seems simple enough to me - the checkout clerk is supposed to open a plastic shopping bag in the carousel position closest to them, fill it with goods and then when the bag is full, rotate the carousel one position counter-clockwise thereby moving a filled grocery bag one position closer to me and eventually my cupboard. The clerk should then fill next plastic bag. This keeps the clerk from lifting bags all day long and makes for an efficient flow off goods from the store and into my home.

Fill the bag, rotate counter clockwise, fill the next bag. How hard can that be?

There are allowable variations to this operation such as sorting goods into the appropriate type by rotating the carousel back and forth until the proper bag comes into position for grocery placement. This optional modification to the process leads to bag completion ambiguity, (Is he done with one before I put in the cart?) but I digress.

For some unknown reason, the clerks in my Shoprite are incapable of operating this simple machine even though this is what they do all day long.

This baffles me beyond belief. I am stunned every time I watch it. I can't concentrate on my checkbook as I watch them fill single bags and then reach down and lift the bag over the carousel as if the carousel did not exist at all. Some fill the center counter until food stuffs are falling off it like an overfilled kitchen trash container and then quickly fill all six bags and wait for me to empty them.

Last night I had a counter-filler clerk with a new twist. He filled the circular counter until over flowing and then filled plastic bags and rotated clockwise. This may seem like a small thing but I was unable to reach the filled bags because I had to awkwardly move my cart out of the way and position myself almost in the adjacent aisle in order to reach them before he ran out of slots to fill.

Such pressure.

Fill the bag, rotate counter clockwise, fill the next bag. None of them do it. None.

Wasn't there training on this new piece of equipment? Aren't there procedures? Why can't they do this the right way? Is it denial that new things happen in the retail food industry?

Of course I know what this is in me. It is the first warning sign of the onset of the hereditary disease Monkism. Monkism is defined as trying to set order to a seemingly untidy universe like Mr Monk on the USA Networks TV show. It's like that first uncontrollable shake of the finger for a Parkinson's victim. In the end, I'll be sorting and storing all my food alphabetically.

My Father has it. For 50 years he has been trying to put toilet paper in the dispenser the "right" way. He is convinced that TP where the newest sheet is on the bottom creates greater tension on the roll than than where the newest is on top and therefore sheets rip off prematurely from the greater tension. All TP should be placed in dispensers newest sheet on top. Period.

Monkism can be debilitating and those with it largely suffer in silence as others go about messing up the universe.

I once invited Dad to house down the shore that my family rented for a few days. It was a heavily used rental and this was the end of the season. It was a nice place but there were things messed up. Light bulbs were burned out, kitchen utensils were missing and worst of all to the Monkism victim, pictures were crooked. As we sat and watch TV He said to me "that picture is crooked". I said I know and didn't do anything. It was early for me Monkism and had not set in yet.

He sat there for a while and it made him crazy until finally he couldn't stand it anymore and got up and straightened the picture.

So I will fight the good fight and not try to teach the Shoprite clerks the "right" way to use the carousel. Monkism: by learning to recognize it, we can stop it in this generation.

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