I know that some wonderful stores have a single queue, usually snaking back and forth a few times, and then many registers that call the next person forward by register number. WH Smith, Boots, and the bank branch near my flat all seem to follow this very fair system of queueing. (I can’t believe spell checker is not flagging those five vowels in a row, U-E-U-E-I!) However, not all stores have this sort of arrangement, including grocery stores (except the express line) and a few others. So the experience I’m about to relate has to be considered unique to stores with individual check-out lines.
I had my basket of goods and was looking at the three open check-out lanes to try and optimize my store-exit strategy. Lurking behind one of the lines was a woman with a baby in one of those car seat-carriers stuck in a cart and there was also a little girl running around her. It was actually not clear that she was in line, but I still avoided that one and got into another line. Suddenly I hear this voice behind me, “Ma’am, Excuse me but I was already waiting for the next available cashier.” I turned around, I’m guessing that my jaw was dropped in shock and that I gave her one of those “You’ve got to be kidding me!” looks. She said, “Give me a break, I have an infant and a two-year old here.”
I let her go. I was not really in the mood for a fight, but now I’m sorta peeved with myself for allowing this obnoxious woman to redefine the queue structure from individual lanes into she-moves-around-and-gets-whatever-comes-up-next. I might have felt differently had she said, in a polite tone of voice, “I’m sorry but is there any way possible I could take the next lane?” but she did not actually ask me. And her tone of voice was neither sweet nor polite, and it only got worse with the comment about the kids, as though she was somehow entitled to special treatment by virtue of being a mother.
I admit it, I do not have children (nor do I intend to, but that’s a different story). So I don’t know if I’m somehow violating a universally-acknowledged right of motherhood by feeling ornery about this particular altercation. But admittedly I do get a bit stroppy when someone tries to get special treatment. I kinda feel like most of us have difficult lives, and are tired, and overworked, and so I don’t see some sort of totally non-level playing field based on to be or not to be a mother. Of course, my cashier in the queue in which I landed was very speedy and I was actually out of the store before the Holy Mother, so I did not have to look at her again, which was probably a good thing. But I’m interested in opinions here, was this particularly brash or am I being sensitive? Should this type of attitude be justifiable solely on the grounds of being out in public with small children?