In a Perfect World …
A man gets in the express lane in front of me at the grocery store. His cart contains over the allowed 12 items, and he takes out his checkbook, and three coupons. The cashier begins to ring him up, but when she swipes the 13th item, a light above the register comes on, begins to flash, and circles as a bell rings and a voice comes over the store intercom: “EXPRESS-LANE STRIKE FORCE NEEDED! EXPRESS LANE STRIKE FORCE NEEDED!”
“What’s going on?” the man asks.
“I’m afraid, sir, that the express-lane register automatically shutS down and call in the express-lane strike force when I swipe a 13th item.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means, the register next to us will open within a minute for the people behind you in line, and that the store’s IT staff will have to unlock this register while you wait. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.”
“But I’m in a hurry. Can I just go to another register?”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible. your credit card has been swallowed by the chip reader, and I’m going to have to ask you to step over to the courtesy counter to answer a few questions.”
“What kind of questions?”
“We’re going to want to ensure that you can read signs and count to 12.”
“Of course I can count to 12, and I can probably read better than you.”
“That may be the case, but I’m not the one who got into the express lane with more than 12 items. If, in fact, you can read and count, the staff at the courtesy counter will ask you to participate in some counselling regarding rule-following and sensitivity to the needs of others.”
“That’s ridiculous. This whole thing is ridiculous.”
“Perhaps, sir, but I see the strike force coming NOW, so if you’d just step out of the way, and proceed to the courtesy counter, we can get started on clearing this machine; but first I’d like to suggest that you remember this experience the next time you’re in the store with more than 12 items.”
The man who had been in front of me in line walked off, in the direction of the courtesy counter, and I carried my carton of milk to the next register, which had just opened up for me.