Me, peering at the grocery checkout card swiper: “Heh. I always think it’s oddly charming when someone’s signature is on one of these screens in ink.”

Cashier (flatly): “Mmm, not really. It doesn’t come off.”

Okay, fine, maybe I need to get out more, and I guess I’m not the one tasked with trying to clean the screens every day, but it is charming. It’s always a careful Palmer Method script, and I can picture the customer—elderly, maybe a bit trembly-handed—dutifully signing her name with a ballpoint pen (fished from a leathery-smelling pocket in her oversized purse, the tip dusted with crumpled Kleenex motes), only to be told by the irritated clerk that she was supposed to use that plastic doohickey hanging off the end of the machine instead. Well how was I supposed to…? she thinks, her cheeks turning pink. Pens, papers, screens, buttons. Can’t they just settle on something?

I sometimes take the kids to the store after I pick Riley up from school, just to grab something for dinner or stock up on some needed item like toilet paper (which I am just now remembering that I forgot this afternoon, damn it all to hell), and it’s nearly always a terrible idea. One kid is all hopped up from being released from school and the other is excited to see his brother and to be doing something other than hanging around a boring old adult all day long, and they’re as impossible to control as two cats who have also recently lapped up a triple shot espresso.

Dylan in particular makes his way through stores in a frustratingly distracted, dreamy fashion, exclaiming at top volume over random things he recognizes (“HEY! WE have that cereal!”) and wandering directly into the paths of oncoming carts. I find myself saying, “Watch where you’re going, buddy,” over and over and over, but honestly it’s more for appearances than anything else. He never watches where he’s going, but at least any potentially annoyed fellow shoppers can see that I am by god asking him to do so. Most of the time I steer him via Maternal Eagle Claw/Border Collie Maneuver: one hand clamped on the back of the jacket, the other propelling him by sort of shoving him in the direction I want him to go.

As crazy-making as it is to try and ferry them both through a store while not forgetting the toilet paper (dammit) in the process, I have to admire their ability to find entertainment in the mundane. For instance, did you know that the bags of Purina have pictures of cats on them? And that some fruit is bumpy and weird and looks like a monster? And there are fish in the seafood display—like, for real, actual fish in there!

Oh, there is so much to marvel over.


38 Responses to “Improper signatures”

  1. Erin on November 21st, 2011 6:06 pm

    One word for you: Lobsters.

    We go and look at the lobsters every weekend at the store. The girls LOVE it. And it gives me a second to breathe before jumping into the gauntlet that is the meat department.

    And I’ve always had a small smile for signatures on the screens of the credit card machines, too. I feel for the cashiers and the writer of the signature, but like you, I can imagine the writer and the confusion they must feel in the face of so much new technology.

  2. Christine on November 21st, 2011 6:22 pm

    Ha! In the same vein as the lobsters, if you take them to an Asian grocery store you will blow their minds! Frogs, live fish in tanks, random snails (sometimes), and some fruit that would really knock ’em dead.

  3. Anu on November 21st, 2011 6:33 pm


    I absolutely agree with the Asian stores, especially the Asian mega-stores. Do you have a 99 Ranch or a Hawaiian Market? Entertainment Gold.

    By the way, I noticed the Joico K-Pak rec in the sidebar (I am a Nexxus Emergencee devotee myself). Just thought I’d add that you can take the protein treatment game to a whole new level by using a clarifying + chelating shampoo first (I use Kenra but Joico also makes an excellent one), doing the protein treatment (step out of shower, blowdry till it’s kind of stiff), stepping back IN shower to rinse out protein treatment and then doing a deep condition (my prefs are Je Veux for high end or Neutrogena Triple Mask for drugstore). Because I am a total slave to getting the most out of protein treatments, I step out of the shower again after the protein treatment rinseout, clap a bag on my head and rinse out the deep conditioner an hour later.

    One of my clients is a stylist and told me the trick on how to use them, thought I’d pass it along.

  4. Anu on November 21st, 2011 6:38 pm

    Btw, I know that’s a really fussy and painful process, but it’s what they’ll do for you when you visit a salon to get a protein treatment, and I figure since Joico Revitaluxe is a pretty pricy product, people probably want to get the most out of it. Aphogee 2 Step is the mother of them all but not to be entered into lightly.

  5. Suburban Snapshots on November 21st, 2011 6:38 pm

    I love trips to the grocery store, and have a daughter Dylan’s age who never, ever, ever looks in the direction she’s moving. The man whose ankles she railed with her baby doll stroller wishes I’d just leave my damned kid at home sometimes.

  6. ste on November 21st, 2011 7:08 pm

    This afternoon my nearly-three-year old (how the hell did she get that old?) thought it would be fun to spin as she walked and dance rather than walk. It was really cute. Even the part of the dance where she sings, “fall to the ground”. “Not on the store floor, please, you crazy kid!”

  7. Grace on November 21st, 2011 8:49 pm

    I never comment but this hit a nerve. That old lady reference is my mom and she is NOT the person you describe. I know it’s a blog and you don’t have any responsibility for your words, but they can hurt. Mom does NOT try to sign in ink but frequently there are NO STUPID PENS at the store. Also? She brings out her “stuff” before the cashier asks for it and is herself annoyed at…”—dutifully signing her name with a ballpoint pen (fished from a leathery-smelling pocket in her oversized purse, the tip dusted with crumpled Kleenex motes).”

    Dammit.. I am angry. I know you are a writer and all that but please don’t brush all people with that pen.

  8. Lori O on November 21st, 2011 9:04 pm

    I am also fascinated by my 4-year-old’s fascination with mundane things. It kinda brightens the boring things up, don’t you think? As cliche as it sounds, she reminds me to “stop and smell the roses” more.

  9. Linda on November 21st, 2011 9:07 pm

    Just when I think I cannot possibly be surprised at what offends people, boom.

  10. Meggan on November 21st, 2011 9:16 pm

    I thought your paragraph about the woman in line painted a fantastic picture and reminded me of women I have loved dearly. The thing to remember is that you aren’t offending, your writing is speaking to people (sometimes positively, sometimes negatively)….That’s what fantastic authors do.

  11. KateMac on November 21st, 2011 9:20 pm

    Wow. I did *not* see Grace’s comment coming.

  12. Kristin on November 21st, 2011 9:25 pm

    You could write a children’s book about a trip to the grocery store. Kind of like how Skippyjonjones has his imagination in the closet. But don’t forget the toilet paper… :)

  13. Bekki on November 21st, 2011 9:30 pm

    I am convinced the reason my signature sucks so bad is those stupid screen signing things. I used to be the kind of person who wrote out every letter in my name. Those stupid things are so insensitive, I would just get frustrated and so now…I scribble.

    Also, I can’t even tell you the rage I feel when I see a someone with 1 kid using the last of the double shopping carts because I REFUSE to take my 3 year old twins to the store without some way to strap them down. I am not brave enough to allow free reign. I just can’t do it.

  14. Jess on November 21st, 2011 9:35 pm

    Really? She thinks that’s offensive? Has she SEEN hipster fashion lately? That shit is offensive.

  15. NK on November 21st, 2011 9:36 pm

    I never comment, but this hit a nerve. I was deeply offended by your comment: “…as two cats who have also recently lapped up a triple shot espresso.”

    I work at a vet clinic and have seen firsthand how espresso can be toxic to cats. This was deeply upsetting to me as a result, bringing to mind unpleasant memories. I know you are a writer and all that, but please don’t use such hurtful analogies in the future-

    Too soon? Eh. I really am a first time commenter, but I’m loving the more recent posts. Your writing is lovely. :)

  16. sooboo on November 21st, 2011 9:55 pm

    Loling at NK’s comment…Your descriptions of how it can be difficult to kid wrangle at the store has made this childless reader a lot more patient with kids at the store.

  17. Lara on November 21st, 2011 9:56 pm

    Holy crap Grace, you confused me.

  18. Colleen on November 21st, 2011 10:00 pm

    This comment section is slaying me tonight!!! Enjoying your more frequent updates, Linda. You are the best.

  19. NK on November 21st, 2011 10:02 pm

    (Hmm. That definitely should have said ‘the more FREQUENT posts’. Not recent, as that would imply that the ones before these have been lesser posts, which was not my intent. Carry on.)

  20. Megan on November 21st, 2011 10:14 pm

    Also attempting to add levity to the confusing comment air…I am a (what many would easily call) young woman, who tried, just this past week, to sign a PAPER RECIEPT with the electronic pad pen at Target. Yup. Did that. Laughed at myself, too. It’s all good.

  21. Jennifer on November 21st, 2011 11:13 pm

    My mom is 89 y/o and she’d be the first to volunteer that SHE signed that thing with a ballpoint pen. And she would be proud of herself too!

  22. Amelia on November 21st, 2011 11:39 pm

    “Watch where you’re going, buddy.”

    I was in a park with my sister-in-law and our kids and I shouted to my son, “Stay where I can see you, buddy!” and this little old lady was walking by (made from the very same mold that signed the signature pad in pen) and said to her friend, “My, there are a lot of little boys named ‘Buddy’ these days! I wouldn’t have thought that name would be so popular.”

    I almost peed I was laughing so hard.

  23. NancyJ on November 22nd, 2011 5:17 am

    Geez Louise – I conjured up a beautiful picture of a little old lady (sure wish my mother lived long enough to get to that age!) lighten up Gracie I saw absolutely no insult to little old ladies and more of an overall annoyance that NO technological system is the same. I can never figure out “do I press the red button for credit”? “do I wait for the credit sign?” “what the hell? why did this cancel the whole transaction when I pressed cancel? Cancel is to go to credit” “Oh? not on this one?”
    I remember always trying to corral my son into staying by my side – I’d have tried to keep him in the carriage til he was about 20 LOL.
    Love you Linda – glad for all the wonderfully mundane posts! And I mean that in a really good way.

  24. Lori on November 22nd, 2011 7:17 am

    Tried hard not to laugh at Grace’s comment as it seems she possibly was actually offended. But… I’m in my 40’s, a gadget queen and a website developer. And… every one of those d*(*&^^ machines operates a bit differently from the others. I hold out my card to the cashier who disdainfully points to the machine in front of me or I swipe the card when I first get there only to be told you can’t swipe till the stuff is all rung up or I stand there waiting patiently for the cashier to finish and the cashier finally points at the machine where she has been waiting on me to sign. That pen thingy is not always hanging there in plain sight either.

  25. Ashleas on November 22nd, 2011 7:37 am

    I am a cashier who has to use those pin pads at her register so I relate the cashier of the story most of all. I assure you that I’m very anal retentive about making sure that my pin pad pens are always in the proper place and not hanging loose and I actually instruct people through the card process. I have a whole routine. “The pin pad is going to ask you to approve the amount. Now it’s going to ask you for your pin BUT if you want credit, hit the red cancel button.” etc. etc.

    However, because I do walk them through the process, it is annoying when someone thinks they know the pin pads – They are all different. Sorry, that’s capitalism for you: Encouraging competitive brands – and thus hits the cancel button when I’m asking them to approve the transaction amount and thus cancels out the process (thank goodness I don’t have to re-ring anything up though).

    I’ve also gotten good at reaching around my register and hitting the ‘enter’ button or the ‘accept’ button once people sign. The pin pad doesn’t know the signature is finished and my drawer won’t open till it does.

    I do feel bad for those out there who are not as familiar with the ever changing technology. If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone complain that the signature doesn’t look like their writing, I’d not be working as a cashier. (I assure you.. no one looks at those signatures.)

    My fellow cashiers and I often talk about how nice it would be if all the companies would agree on one program for registers, pin pads and self-checkouts but just change the graphics and colors for their needs.
    It’d do away with a lot of confusion.

    I’m going to stop rambling now..

  26. Kim on November 22nd, 2011 8:05 am

    The same description that offended Grace just made me really miss my grandma, who I loved dearly. Eye of the beholder…

  27. bds on November 22nd, 2011 8:12 am

    Really? I thought Grace was kidding! Was she serious?? Wow! She needs to get a life.
    This post was fantastic, as all of yours are!!!!

  28. Sarah on November 22nd, 2011 9:00 am

    Aaaaand there’s the ton of bricks I ordered. (Grace’s comment).
    I in no way shape or form got the impression that you were being derogatory or offensive towards the imagined elderly person. If my understanding is correct, it was quite the opposite. You were being sensitive to what they face in this ever changing technological world.
    That paragraph brought such a sweet smile to my face and tugged at my heart strings. I, like other commenters was reminded of my grandma, my aunts, sweet elderly strangers that I’ve met while waiting in the check-out line and it gave me pause to think what the world will be like when I am elderly and wish they’d just “just settle on something”.
    LOVE your writing!

  29. agirlandaboy on November 22nd, 2011 9:02 am

    Glad to have you back here more regularly. SUBSCRIBE! HARD!

  30. Sunshyn on November 22nd, 2011 10:16 am

    Hey! My kid is called Buddy, too! Whodathunk! I loved the way you characterized old ladies with pens and tissues in their purses, and you made me miss my mom so deeply I almost cried. So there, Grace! If I weren’t allergic to cats, I’d get some and give them espresso, just to watch them ping pong off the walls. Sheesh. Double sheesh. I think I will sign a credit card pad in ink, just to be annoying today. Because hairspray will take that ink right off, just sayin…

  31. mamacreates on November 22nd, 2011 1:04 pm

    I rarely comment, but oh my lord, that is the EPITOME of every single grocery store outing I have with my 3 & 1/2 year old daughter.

    Her: MAMA! WE we have that cereal! MAMA! RANCH DRESSING! Do we need Ranch Dressing? (all the while dropping things into the cart without my knowledge)

    Or alternatively, assuming I’ve let her out of her cage (I mean, cart) and she’s got her own little shopping cart, Me:

    Babes, watch out! Sweet pea…watch where you’re going, please. Ellis, I really need you to watch where you’re going. Honey, not everyone thinks you’re as cute as I do & not everyone likes having a tiny red grocery cart rammed into the backs of their ankles…..

    But damn, she’s fun to have around & keeps me good company.

  32. Annie on November 22nd, 2011 3:22 pm

    The little old lady comment made me miss my Mom too, no offense taken. It painted a sweet picture.

  33. holley on November 22nd, 2011 7:22 pm

    Oh wow. What a wonderful post!!!! So funny. So true. I have a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old boy and sweet baby girl. Oh. The grocery store.

  34. Belle on November 22nd, 2011 7:56 pm

    That little old lady would be my 87-year-old mother when she was still able to get out and about. I am sure she made mistakes but she was always gracious about it and so proud of her independence. I wish she’d still be able to be signing in the wrong place, asking questions of the cashier, but she now relies on me to get all of her shopping done. I thought you were very sweet and understanding of our older generation in your beautiful description.

  35. Mary Clare on November 23rd, 2011 10:35 am

    One of the reasons I love being a parent is marvelling at the every day banalities with my kids! You captured the wonder well. And, WTF is up with Grace’s comment? She must be messing with you.

  36. MotherGooseAmy on November 24th, 2011 9:27 am

    Earlier in the week I took my boys (same ages as yours) after school to Costco. The little one was being difficult about getting buckled into the car so I told him he could not have any samples.

    When we arrived at Costco, there were of course several ladies handing out samples. So I gave the big one samples and reminded the little one why he wasn’t getting any. After each denied sample, the little one would yell at me, “I AM SO ANGRY AT YOUuuuuuu!!!!!” It was freakin’ hilarious.

    Finally at the checkout line he settled down and as his humor started to resurface, he noticed a man with a long white beard in the next line. Next thing I know, he points at the man accusingly and says, “You’re CHRISTMAS MAN!”

    Best Costco trip EVER!!!!

  37. Renee on December 8th, 2011 2:19 pm

    And you are the good Mom! I gave up and just told people that running them over would be just fine with me.

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