Shopping at Aafes
Working part-time as a cashier at Aafes (army air force exchange services) on Ft. Bragg has given me a great opportunity to observe human behavior. Sometimes I think of the shoppers as white rats in a lab experiment, and the aisles as a maze. Most of the rats--customers, I mean--follow a routine pattern, strolling up and down the aisles and then escaping through the exit hatch. But not everyone is so dependable. My research has revealed three distinct types of abnormal customer: the amnesiac, the super shopper, and the dawdler.
The amnesiac stops his car in the loading zone, leaves the engine running with the keys locked inside, and tries to enter the store by crashing into the exit door. After dusting himself off and slipping through the entrance, he grabs a cart and begins hurtling down the aisles against the normal flow of traffic. "Peaches or potatoes?" he mutters to himself. ...view middle of the document...
With military-like efficiency, she trundles her cart from one sale item to another, carefully organizing them in her basket by size, weight, and shape. Rarely, however, does she make it through the store without a breakdown: either the Charmin has been moved to a different shelf or else some poor stock clerk has forgotten to replenish a supply of Cool Ranch Doritos. Usually the manager has to be called in to settle her down and set her back on course. Then, when she reaches my lane, she begins barking orders: "Double bag the Creamsicles! Twelve-cents off on Jell-O! Don't put the grapes in with the Nutty Ho Hos!" She glares at the prices blinking on the register, just waiting to pounce on me for making an error. If my total doesn't match the one on her calculator, she insists on a complete recount. Sometimes I make up the difference myself just to get her out of the store.
The dawdler wanders in as if he had been looking for the library and arrived here by mistake. He tours the aisles slowly, pausing often to read a box of Froot Loops, squeeze a dinner roll, or sniff one of those lemon-scented rubber blobs of room freshener. Yet, he seldom ends up buying many of the things he picks up. When he finally strolls up to the checkout, the dawdler likes to settle in for a chat--about my hair style, or that nice tune tinkling out of the ceiling speakers. Although the people waiting behind him in line are fuming, I try to be friendly, knowing that this must be the major social event of the dawdler's week.
To be truthful, most of the people who pass through my checkout are quietly efficient and polite and a little boring. Though the abnormal ones may try my patience, they also help to make a dull job more interesting. So, for your own amusement keep an eye out for these characters the next time you pull into the parking lot of a store: a fellow trying to unlock his car with a coat hanger, a woman fussing at the bag boy for squashing a grape, and a sweet old man who may try to tell you about the arthritis in his knees or the expiration date on his buttermilk.