Minding Our Ps and Queues


It's the end of a long and trying day and you stop by the market for just a few things: Some milk, a roll of paper towels, a couple of lemons.  You step into the line clearly marked EXPRESS only to discover that the person ahead of you is unloading what looks like the weekly supply of groceries—despite the fact that the words under Express say "15 items or less."

Where IS Madea and her gun-filled purse when you need her?!

And really, what are your choices here?  One hand, you're not really going to throw down in the express line, are you?  On the other hand, do you really want to let her (and sorry, but in my experience, it's almost always been members of my sex who do this) get away with that?


The cashier is likely to play Bennett—she ain't in it and doesn't want to be.  She will say, as a certain presidential candidate did at a debate at a certain evangelical mega-church, that tangling with a 38-item lady in a 15-item line is above her pay grade.

That's where the manager comes in.  After you've finally paid for your three things, find the manager and tell her: "I shop here several times a week, but unless you get your Express Line problem under control, I'll have to take my business elsewhere.  I don't want to, but my time is valuable."

And the manager will refresh the cashiers' memory as to what Express really means and how to handle things when people pretend they can't read.

Okay, so having paid for your things, you're on the way home when traffic slows to a crawl and then stops.  Why?  (If you're in LA, your initial instinct will be to say who knows? Happens all the time…  and you'd be right.  If you live elsewhere, read on):

Probably road construction or an accident.  Really, doesn't matter why—but what DOES matter is that we let people in the closed lane slip ahead of us.  Not everybody, just a car or two.  If a couple people begin the courtesy, others often follow.  And traffic starts to move.  And we all get home faster.

So: for grocery lines, complain, politely, to management.  They take these things seriously because not attending to them means losing business. And in this economic climate, that's like leaving money on the table.

For traffic lines—let the person in the dead-end lane in.  You'll actually help yourself get where you're going quickly.


Your Mother Was Right: When she told you to let the person behind you at the store with one thing go ahead of you when you have an armful of things.  Another deposit in the Good Karma Bank.

Karen Grigsby Bates is a LA-based reporter for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).


etiquette emergency? write to us as askcomecorrect@gmail.com, and remember that you letter could be published unless you request otherwise.

is a Los Angeles-based correspondent for NPR News and co-author, with Karen Elyse Hudson, of The New Basic Black: Home Training For Modern Times (Doubleday).