The Handicapped Lane

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(photo by Cameron Russell)

I had never used the handicapped lane at Shoprite or any other grocery store before. I thought it was off limits to me, but the young cashier beckoned me, “Come on, I’m open.”

“Oh, I thought it was only for the handicapped. Well, I guess I fit in if you include the mentally handicapped.”

She smiled, her long brown ponytail swinging like a pendulum.

“It’s a guideline, but other people use it all the time,” she said.

“Oh, I didn’t know that,” I said.

I unloaded my groceries quickly in case real handicapped people showed up and needed the lane. It was Friday night, not a very busy one at Shoprite.

“Paper or plastic?” she said.

She had prepared a couple double bags, paper inside plastic.

“That’s fine,” I said, “or all plastic.”

I know it’s environmentally un-PC, but I need them for cleaning the kitty litter boxes.

Behind me was a heavy couple in flannel shirts and overalls who didn’t appear to be handicapped either.

They glanced at me as if to say, “You don’t belong here, imposter.” Perhaps I was being paranoid.

I wondered what their handicap was.

The handicapped lane was a lonely one, I would imagine, especially for the cashier.

I wondered how many people used it on a daily basis.

Are there other shoppers who never use it for fear it’s off limits to them too?

I try to only use the express lanes when I have the requisite number of items, but I’ve gone over by at least a couple items at times. The express lane cashiers have never beckoned me. Perhaps they’re less lonely; they seem to be an insular group, and chatty.

Express lane vs. handicapped, fast vs. slow, efficient vs. wobbly or more deliberate.

More express customers than handicapped ones, I suppose.

Does fast always win?