BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

Trust Your Gut

Man contemplating on a hike

Here’s a bit of wisdom:

Never switch checkout lines at the grocery.

I learned this lesson the hard way recently.

It was around 6 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, and I’d stopped at the store down the street to pick up a few essentials.

This is the same store that’s tortured me before with its long lines and indifferent cashiers.

And this was a sneaky-busy time to go shopping.

While weekends would be considered grocery store rush hour, weekday evenings during actual rush hour aren’t far behind, as people are on their way home from work, grabbing what they need for dinner that night or lunch the following day.

As always on my afternoon commute, I sensed a hint of anxiousness and impatience simmering beneath the surface. I was desperate to get what I needed, so I could get into my gym shorts and in front of my TV as quickly as possible.

Like many, I have no confidence in my ability to pick the right line/lane. It doesn’t matter where I am — in traffic, at the movies, at airport security — it feels as if I always make the wrong call.

(Of course, I recognize this isn’t something you notice when you do make the right call. So who knows what my actual batting average is)

With my three items in hand, I surveyed the landscape of checkout lanes, like an NFL quarterback reading the defense.

What I saw was not encouraging. Every line had at least a couple customers stacked up.

With no clear-cut choice, I had to go with my gut and pick — and then pray.

I immediately regretted my decision.

The guy who was currently getting rung up asked for a pack of cigarettes, bringing the operation to a halt, as the checker walked down to the locked case to grab a pack of Marlboro Lights. And there was still another person in front of me.

Restless, I started looking around to see if any of the other lanes had cleared.

It appeared the one two aisles over had. So I made my move.

Unfortunately, “appeared” was the operative word.

Turns out there was a customer waiting in that lane, too; I had just been unable to see her over the racks of Snickers bars and National Enquirers. And her basket was fuller than the woman I was behind in the original line.

Now, I was even further from my couch than before. And I was not handling it well.

I cursed myself for my impatience, and implored myself to sit tight. I’d learned my lesson, and I had no choice but to take my medicine.

This lesson stuck with me for all of 37 seconds, i.e. the excruciating amount of time it took for the checker in my new lane to figure out the code for the cucumber the customer in front of me was purchasing. And that was just one of many vegetables in the woman’s cart.

In a panic, I looked around again for a different line. I was like a gambler who was convinced that my next roll of the dice would make everything better.

Predictably, it did not.

My third try at picking the correct lane went as well as the first two.

And by the time my items had finally been scanned and paid for, I sloughed my way to the parking lot in a haze of anger, astonishment and defeat.

Yes, this story is the definition of first-world problems. And yes, I’d rather my focus be on how fortunate I am to be able to walk into a store and buy whatever my appetite desires.

Mostly, though, I wish I had the confidence to make a decision, trust its outcome and never look back.

Or, more accurately, never try to look over those racks that line the checkout lanes.

They’re a lot taller than you think.

*****

This originally appeared on 100 Naked Words.

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