I am constantly confused by the rules of etiquette for the little plastic dividers you use to separate your groceries from the other guy’s groceries on the conveyor belt at checkout.
I never know if it’s my responsibility to lay it down behind my own groceries, or if it’s my responsibility to lay it down behind the guy’s groceries ahead of me.
Sometimes I end up doing both, guarding the front and the rear. That makes me mad, because it means someone in line has shirked their responsibilities. It’s people like that who deserve to pay for my wandering Wonder Bread should it stray across our shared border.
My own personal philosophy is that each man and woman must guard their own rear. Although I admit that a sign saying “Guard Your Own Rear” could be misconstrued.
Angry over the ambiguity, I decided to protest.
You see, normally, you use your divider like this:
But yesterday, I decided to do something new. Rather than set the divider down perpendicular to the conveyor belt, thereby neatly walling off my groceries from everybody else’s, I laid it down parallel to the belt, right down the middle of my own groceries. Like this:
When my groceries reached the checker, I thought his head was going to explode. He stared at the groceries for a good five seconds.
“Are those your groceries?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“On both side of the divider?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Is there a reason you divided them up that way?” he asked.
“There’s no sign posted,” I said, “So I didn’t know how to use these things.” I held up one of the dividers.
“You use them to divide your groceries from other people’s groceries,” he said, obviously annoyed.
“Oh,” I said.
“You didn’t know that?” he said, now squinting angrily at me.
“I did,” I admitted.
“So why’d you put it that way?” he asked.
I didn’t know what to say, so I blurted out the first thing that came into my head.
“Because in my groceries, there are internal divisions.”