Part of the reason I don't go food shopping anymore is because the experience is too aggravating, the modern supermarket having become a gathering place for too many nitwits.
This was again evident the other day when my wife sent me out for a can of cling peaches.
I thought we could live another 24 hours without a can of cling peaches. But she was baking something and said: "Look, I need cling peaches" in a tone of voice that suggested her next move would be a crisp uppercut to my sternum.
So I went to the supermarket, because the last thing I needed was to end up gasping for breath on the kitchen floor.
At the store, I decided my strategy, such as it was, was to get in and out in a hurry, before some deranged senior citizen in a straw boater rammed his shopping cart into my knee.
(This actually happened a few months ago -- the old coot took the corner without even looking and nearly cost me some cartilage. People talk about the streets not being safe anymore; you ought to see what goes on in the aisles of a supermarket.)
I was also hoping to avoid the perky "Cheese Lady" at the end of Aisle 3, who was waving a greasy stick of pepperoni in the face of every customer and chirping: "You folks care for a free sample? It's ver-ry good!"
So I sprinted to the canned goods aisles, grabbed the cling peaches, and hustled over to the express lane to join the other hostile, Type A-personality shoppers.
That's the thing about supermarket express lanes: Everybody's in such a damn hurry.
People stand there drumming their fingers nervously and glancing at their watches and shooting dirty looks at the cashier.
I don't want to get too deep here, but there's a lot of negative energy in an express lane.
A lot of bad karma, too.
Anyway, the store was busy and it took about five minutes until I was near the front of the line.
But when I got there, I witnessed a dreary scene that has become all too familiar in supermarkets.
The cashier began scanning the purchases of the woman in front of me, who chose that exact moment to lapse into full nitwit mode.
First she thumbed through a TV Guide. Then she put the TV Guide down and thumbed through a People magazine.
Then she put that down and began chatting with her friend.
"That'll be $11.95," said the cashier finally.
"Oh!" said the woman, smiling sheepishly. And only then did she begin rummaging about in her pocketbook for money, as if it had just occurred to her that she had to pay for her groceries.
So now she had to find her wallet.
And open her wallet.
And take out her money.
And hand the money to the cashier.
And wait for her change.
And put the change back in her wallet.
And put her wallet back in her pocketbook.
Here this nitwit had been waiting in line five minutes, and hadn't even begun to THINK about reaching for her money.
Well. Needless to say, the rest of the hostile shoppers in line did not take this delay gracefully.
People were rolling their eyes and muttering under their breath. But this woman was in such a fog she didn't even notice.
As the shopper closest to her, I thought of saying something nasty to her.
But to tell you the truth, I figured the woman was so whacked out that it would be a dangerous move.
She struck me as the sort of person who could easily be walking around with seven sticks of dynamite strapped to her body, just waiting for someone to give her a hard time.
At the risk of sounding sexist, let me note that more of this nitwit behavior -- making people wait while you fumble for money -- is committed by women than men.
No one seems to know exactly why this is, either.
But the fact is, most men have their money ready when the cashier asks for it. At the risk of generalizing, my own theory is this: Most men, having been blessed with the patience of a 3-year-old, want to get out of the store as quickly as possible.
So the men are more focused on what they're doing. They're more concerned with the speed of the transaction, so that they can get back to whatever it is they were doing, like laying on the couch or having their tires rotated.
Or hustling cling peaches back to the house before a certain someone turns into Smokin' Joe Frazier.