0

A sense of humor has its place ... mats - Clay Wilson

A sense of humor is, I think, essential to getting through life with any measure of sanity. I pity those people who don't have one.

This hit me last week when I got stuck in one of those self-checkout lanes at a local ultramegasuperstore. The people just in front of me, who had been at the back of an extensive line themselves, seemed on that evening to be a humorless group.

They had reason. The scanning machine was malfunctioning before they even got to it, requiring a visit from the cashier at the "pay station," who with a wave of her barcode-studded wand magically made everything all right.

But sure enough, when the woman and her (I assume) son began to scan their items, the machine went on strike again. The humans' frustration was palpable.

They couldn't have known, of course, that the malfunction was my fault. I've long since discovered that, no matter how swiftly-moving the register line is when I'm walking up to it, as soon as I step into line it slows down as rapidly as rush hour traffic on I-75.

The register malfunctions, or there's a price check, or customers can't find their bonus cards, or they have to go through their 150 coupons to find the two for items they've actually bought.

I've simply gotten used to it – learned to grin and bear it; but part of the small family unit in front of me obviously hadn't. The woman immediately began to vent her frustration through her mouth in the form of exasperated sighs.

The young man exhibited more patience, repeatedly passing the barcode of the place mats they were trying to buy over the laser sensor. But it was no use.

Either there was something wrong with the machine or the barcode, or a higher power was trying to tell this woman that she had enough place mats already.

Meanwhile, I was watching all of this with a wry grin on my face – or at least in my heart. But I was laughing not at the woman's misfortune, but at mine.

I certainly had other things I would rather have been doing than watching the Barcode Dance at Bullseye Mart. So naturally the machine was going to malfunction, leaving me to stand gazing around at the tabloids, desperately trying to be interested in which celebrity is going into rehab or which one's eight-day marriage is ending.

It's not like I could have just transferred to another line. They were all about as long as the one I was in, and if I had gone to another one it would have slowed down, too.

So I just waited and chuckled to myself. But suddenly the irony became too much for my predecessor in line. She told the young man just to abandon the place mats. He tried valiantly to scan them a few more times, but eventually tossed them into a nearby empty buggy and left.

As I walked up to the scanning console and saw the castoff place mats lying forlornly in the bottom of the buggy, I realized how vital a sense of humor is.

That poor women missed out on a nice – albeit no doubt cheaply made in China – set of place mats, simply because she ran out of patience. But a sense of humor can inspire patience. In most instances, I probably would have just laughed at the whole thing and went to find the pay station Barcode Fairy.

But then again, maybe they were running late for a dinner party, and the woman figured it would be better to leave the guests without place mats than to leave them hanging. There are some situations in which a sense of irony has to give way to a sense of practicality.

And I guess on that night, practicality won out in the end with me, too. I mean, I didn't just go ahead and buy the place mats myself.

Clay Wilson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at cwilson@henryherald.com.

A sense of humor is, I think, essential to getting through life with any measure of sanity. I pity those people who don't have one.

This hit me last week when I got stuck in one of those self-checkout lanes at a local ultramegasuperstore. The people just in front of me, who had been at the back of an extensive line themselves, seemed on that evening to be a humorless group.

They had reason. The scanning machine was malfunctioning before they even got to it, requiring a visit from the cashier at the "pay station," who with a wave of her barcode-studded wand magically made everything all right.

But sure enough, when the woman and her (I assume) son began to scan their items, the machine went on strike again. The humans' frustration was palpable.

They couldn't have known, of course, that the malfunction was my fault. I've long since discovered that, no matter how swiftly-moving the register line is when I'm walking up to it, as soon as I step into line it slows down as rapidly as rush hour traffic on I-75.

The register malfunctions, or there's a price check, or customers can't find their bonus cards, or they have to go through their 150 coupons to find the two for items they've actually bought.

I've simply gotten used to it – learned to grin and bear it; but part of the small family unit in front of me obviously hadn't. The woman immediately began to vent her frustration through her mouth in the form of exasperated sighs.

The young man exhibited more patience, repeatedly passing the barcode of the place mats they were trying to buy over the laser sensor. But it was no use.

Either there was something wrong with the machine or the barcode, or a higher power was trying to tell this woman that she had enough place mats already.

Meanwhile, I was watching all of this with a wry grin on my face – or at least in my heart. But I was laughing not at the woman's misfortune, but at mine.

I certainly had other things I would rather have been doing than watching the Barcode Dance at Bullseye Mart. So naturally the machine was going to malfunction, leaving me to stand gazing around at the tabloids, desperately trying to be interested in which celebrity is going into rehab or which one's eight-day marriage is ending.

It's not like I could have just transferred to another line. They were all about as long as the one I was in, and if I had gone to another one it would have slowed down, too.

So I just waited and chuckled to myself. But suddenly the irony became too much for my predecessor in line. She told the young man just to abandon the place mats. He tried valiantly to scan them a few more times, but eventually tossed them into a nearby empty buggy and left.

As I walked up to the scanning console and saw the castoff place mats lying forlornly in the bottom of the buggy, I realized how vital a sense of humor is.

That poor women missed out on a nice – albeit no doubt cheaply made in China – set of place mats, simply because she ran out of patience. But a sense of humor can inspire patience. In most instances, I probably would have just laughed at the whole thing and went to find the pay station Barcode Fairy.

But then again, maybe they were running late for a dinner party, and the woman figured it would be better to leave the guests without place mats than to leave them hanging. There are some situations in which a sense of irony has to give way to a sense of practicality.

And I guess on that night, practicality won out in the end with me, too. I mean, I didn't just go ahead and buy the place mats myself.

Clay Wilson is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or by e-mail at cwilson@henryherald.com.