Lolly is my favorite checker at Wegmans. She speaks in a friendly, conspiratorial tone, kind of out-of-the-side-of-her-mouth. Her voice has a very peculiar timbre, too. Something between foghorn and an oboe. It intrigues me.
But the thing I really like about her, and why I will wait in her line even if there’s a faster one, …well, there are a few things.
First, she’s is just a great checker. She looks down the belt and checks out the lay of the land, quickly assesses my stuff, and then starts to mentally group things for bagging.
Bagging is a fine art. Lolly knows how to sort and how to bag. She’s one of those Tetris kinds of baggers, but she will never sacrifice fragility for spatial symmetry.
For example, she would never just shove my loaf of raisin bread into the corner of a bag, even if the space seemed custom designed for it. Oh no. Food before form. Always.
She’s not particularly chatty. But I feel she’s there for me. She sees me.
Today a group of three women were in line ahead of me. I overheard them talking to Lolly about how hard it was to raise 3 kids as a single parent. Lolly said she understood because she had been a single parent, too.
When they finished and it was my turn, Lolly said to me: “It’s a lot like being a bartender here. People tell you everything.” And laughed.
I corrected her. “No,” I said. They tell YOU everything. It’s because of how you are.”
She just shrugged and went back to efficiently scanning and weighing and bagging my stuff.
All the way home I tried to nail down just what it is about Lolly that makes me cruise all the checkers first, to see if she’s working, and then stand in her line even when there are way faster ones.
She’s not particularly smiley or chatty. That’s not it.
She’s just present.
She seems to care about my groceries, yes, but I also feel she she sees me as a person, too. I’m not just the next customer to process. I feel a human connection with her, and apparently, I’m not the only one. People tell her things. Intimate things about their lives.
As more and more grocery chains add self-scanners, the human checkers are going to be phased out, I’m afraid, and for the most part, good riddance to them, because frankly, most of them they act like robots now, anyway.
But it makes me sad to think that someday there won’t be any more people like Lolly; people who you don’t know personally, but who make you feel more like a person for having interacted with them.