My wife and I were shopping at Trader Joe’s at 5 o’clock, not our usual shopping time and a bad one. The aisles were jammed. For all its superior features, Trader Joe’s has always been bagger-deprived, so check-out lines move slowly. They were very long at 5 o’clock.
Searching for the mythical shortest line, we found one that qualified but only because an overflowing cart stood at the end with no one nearby. We considered. Most likely its owner had rushed off for a forgotten item. After a minute when no one appeared, we wondered if someone had abandoned it. The line moved forward, opening a substantial gap in front of the ownerless cart. We decided that sufficient time had elapsed and took our position. Immediately, a woman appeared.
“Excuse me! I was in line,” she said.
“You were gone a long time,” said my wife.
“Not true! I wasn’t away twenty seconds. You’re in my spot.”
“We’ll stay,” I said, provoked by her mendacious defense.
She seemed about to make a scene, but before anything developed, my wife told me to shut up and moved our cart to the end of the line. As far as we were concerned, that ended the matter. We began discussing the evening’s activities. The lady with the cart couldn’t overhear, but (in retrospect) she probably thought we were muttering about her. After a minute, she whirled angrily.
“This is clearly very important to you! So I’m going to let you have the precious position you yearn for.” She pushed her cart away but not before turning to wave her finger and add: “Bad Karma! But sooner or later it will find you.”
Having the last word in these disputes equals victory, so we were left irritated and frustrated. That we came up with devastating retorts made us feel worse because she was long gone.
Then miraculously, Karma found us. A clerk opened an empty register, waved us over, and suddenly we were first in line!