Learning to count is a process most of us learn at an early age and normally carry the talent to add and subtract throughout our lives.  As babies, we count on our parents to take care of us by feeding us, burping us, and carrying for our every need.  As children, we count down the days until Christmas and the hours left before summer break begins.  As teenagers, we count down the minutes until we can get behind the wheel of a car.  As adults, we count the days until retirement.  And in our retirement, we count our many blessings which have enabled us to live as long as we have. 

So one would expect that the average person can count to, say, at least one-hundred—if not one-hundred, at least fifty; and if not fifty, at least twenty-five.  But there are many of our fellow citizens who somehow graduated from high school without acquiring the ability to count to twelve. 

If you don’t believe me, step into the Express Lane at the local grocery store where ignorant human beings plop their fifteen to fifty items on the counter just below the sign that reads “12 items or less.” 

Instead of surrendering myself to the idea that our country has lowered its learning standards to the point where a product of the school system is incapable of counting to twelve, I have to believe that these violators of the “12 items or less” rule know exactly what they are doing.  Their disregard of order and their lack of good citizenship far exceed their disregard of basic mathematical properties. 

Come on people, this isn’t some brand spanking new turn-on-your-headlights-when-you-are-using-your-wipers law.  The “12 items or less” rule has been around ever since people started arriving at the checkout lane with eleven items or less. 

I cannot believe the blatant disregard with which people proudly roll their overflowing carts up to the Express Lane.  With enough groceries to cater a combined Brady Bunch and Partridge Family reunion, they pull in front of some guy holding a single bottle of A-1 sauce, the one and only item his wife has requested him to pick up on his way home from a hard day’s work.  Miss Rude-Obnoxious, with the speed of an anesthetized night crawler, slowly unloads each and every one of her thirty-seven items onto the conveyer belt.  By the time Mr. A-1 gets through the Express Lane, his steak is cold and he’s in need of a shave. 

I just wish that I was so important that I could ignore the grocery shopping regulations without suffering a single consequence.  Perhaps putting them in Jamestown inspired stocks out front of the store with a sign hanging around their neck reading “I tried to go through the 12 Items or Less Lane with thirty-seven items” might be a bit too harsh, but so is holding up the line for people wanting to purchase one pack of diapers, two Snicker bars, or three cans of baked beans. 

I believe I have a sensible solution to curtail the crimes of these countless numbers of customers who can’t seem to count their numbers.  I say cut them off at twelve.  It’s really pretty simple.  When Cathy Cashier is checking you out, the register should automatically tally and print your receipt right after your twelfth item is scanned.  After that, your bag of Doritos which would be item thirteen all the way through to your forty-second item, the Little Debbie Snack Cakes, would have to go back in your cart.  Now of course we are a country of free choice so at this moment you would have the choice of either returning the remaining items to the shelves or moving to the end of the Express Lane where twelve more of your forty-two items would be tallied up and a receipt would be printed.  With such a system, Mr. A-1 would be home in time to eat his hot juicy steak and Cathy Cashier would never again receive a dirty look from the customer standing behind the lady with forty-two items.   

Until, this perfect system is initiated in grocery stores and regulated by our Government, it sure would be nice if these inconsiderate, ill-mannered shoppers would learn to count to twelve.  It’s not like I’m asking you to remember a random number like twenty-six or seventy-eight.  The number twelve shows up in a lot more places than just the sign above the Express Lane.  There are twelve hours in a day.  There are twelve months in a year.  There were twelve Disciples.  There are twelve days of Christmas.  And there are twelve fellow citizens on a jury. 

So the next time you show up in the Express Lane with a week’s worth of groceries in two overflowing carts, don’t be surprised when you get pummeled with eggs by the guy standing behind you holding a single carton of eggs which conveniently contain an even dozen—that’s twelve for those of you who still haven’t learned to count.

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