I arrived at the Deli counter at my new local Shoprite-that-replaced-the-stop-and-shop and picked an number from the dispenser.
I looked up at the current number on the display behind the counter.
I looked around. Two customers: me and an old lady from the over 55 community adjacent to us. She is already being helped by the one person behind the counter. The numbering system has been abandoned and we are adrift.
No good can come of this.
Another Deli worker comes up and asks "Can I help who's next?" I speak up and tell her I am 61, hoping she will set the numbers right. No doing.
"I'll have a half of Corned Beef sliced very thin."
While I am giving my order, a couple of other folks come up and grab tickets, a few more Deli counter workers show up and help them.
Then all hell breaks loose.
Pimple faced Ronald steps behind the counter with a ball cap and long hair tucked under it. He sizes up the crowd and starts rattling off numbers.
55! Bzzzz Click.
Four stony faces stare back at him from across the counter like Mount Rushmore. We are already being helped, thanks Ronald.
56! Bzzzz Click.
He waits again.
57! Bzzzz Click.
58! Bzzzz Click.
59! Bzzzz Click.
Now Ronald is picking up steam. But his only strategy for synchronization is to call off numbers. It's as if he is not allowed to ask us customers any sort of question to help him on his quest to find what number are we on? It would be so simple Ronald, just ask us.
60! Bzzzz Click.
61! Bzzzz Click.
At this point Mr 59 shows up. I am not sure where 59 has been but in the time since I showed up and now he could have been off getting a haircut. We were at 54 man, where were you?
He is an amateur. Only a non-pro would walk away from the Deli counter with one customer there. If there are 10 or more, yeah go pick up your cereal and Poptarts but 1? stick around.
"I'm 59, I'm 59!" as he walks in from the side.
Ronald shifts his eyes towards 59 but ignores him.
62! Bzzz Click. Mount Rushmore and now 59 stare back. 59 Speaks up. "I'm 59! I'm 59"
Ronald seems to ignore and is now ripping through the numbers nervously.
63! Bzzz, 64! Bzzz, 65! Bzzz click.
Ronald ignores him. "I'm 59!"
The tension mounts. What will 59 do? Plead his case? "But I had to get a few other things", "I had to get bread"....
66! Bzzz, 67! Bzzz, 68! Bzzzz click.
Ronald has blown through an unprecedented 14 numbers without slicing any deli meats or cheeses. How high will he go? Will he turn over the numbers to the "00"? Why is no one doing anything about this? Where is the manager in the white Chef's coat? Is he not aware that pimply faced Ronald is a crazed member of his staff who pressing the button that increments the numbers wildly?
Ronald reaches 69 and looks directly at 59. Here it comes. The Deli showdown. How will Ronald deal with Mr out of sequence 59?
Ronald asks 59 "Are you 69?" Ha! Ronald thought he was saying 69! and not 59!.
Now I'm not sure if Ronald is fool or a genius. He has successfully averted the hated Deli number crisis but now he has wrecked havoc on the order that is the deli ticketing system.
Ronald starts taking 59's order and we return to Deli-con 5.
Now Mr Chef's coat steps in to synchronize the numbers. I am thinking that he going to have to press the button like 100 times when he reveals a secret button that moves the numbers by 10. He still doesn't know what number we are on but he pressing buttons.
Now the Monk in me can't stand it. I tell him "we are on 63".
He says thanks and I tell him "That was quite a crisis".
He leans over the counter and tells me "It's only lunch meat"