Oprah might call this a "lightbulb moment." Or not.
INETEEN-YEAR-OLD Jesse Keller was spotted last Thursday in the Express "ten items or less" checkout lane of his local grocery store with 23 items in his cart.
When asked by the patron directly behind him what he thought he was doing in this particular checkout lane with thirteen more items in excess of the limit, Jesse replied, "Well, first of all, it should read 'ten items or fewer,' not 'less.'"
This exchange marked just the beginning of what became a lively and enlightening examination of our assumptions about concepts like "ten," "express," and "douchebag."
Jesse appeared more than happy to moderate the discussion, which revolved mainly around the concept of "time," relative to how much of it Jesse was "spending" in the checkout lane relative to others in the same line.
"How much more time will I really take than you guys?" posited the young man, who reduced his 23 items to 22 by eating an organic navel orange.
The discussion immediately expanded to encompass our notions of "free," and "orange." Jesse placed part of the orange peel on the conveyor with the remaining 22 items, after one burly patron had introduced the concept of "pain" into the group's animated roundtable.
The question initially posed to Jesse was repeated. He replied, "I don't think they mean 'ten items' literally, do they?"
Everyone then caucused on the relative versus conventional value of numerals; all but Jesse, who appeared quite at ease with his original formulation, and anyway was next in line.
At this juncture the checkout girl, "Stacy," entered the colloquy by observing that Jesse had placed "22 items plus an orange peel" on the express conveyor. Succinctly, she pointed up to the sign while maintaining eye contact with Jesse, leaving the group to marvel at her effortless, unifying grasp of the thorny concepts that had just been thrashed about.
"You'll have to leave a bunch of these items with me, or go to another lane," spoke the philosopher-checkout girl. "Plus pay for the orange, which counts as one item."
Jesse, now a wiser man, gave Stacy a bunch of items and checked out only nine, plus he paid for the orange.
Jesse's fellow Express-lane patrons nodded admiringly at Stacy, their new roundtable leader.
Next on Jesse's agenda is to challenge our notions of "Handicap parking spot."
© 2.22.10 Kate Heidel