16 February 2005
"10 Items Or Less"
Doesn’t that mean exactly as it reads? Or am I missing something here? Don’t you people get it? T - E - N, 10, items, or less (definition: adj. A comparative of little; Consisting of a smaller number), which means 9, or 8, or 7, and so on. But, if you want to nitpick about proper word usage, the traditional rule holds that fewer should be used for things that can be counted (fewer than four players), while less should be used with mass terms for things of measurable extent (less paper; less than a gallon of paint). However, less is used in some constructions where fewer would occur if the traditional rule were being followed. Less than can be used before a plural noun that denotes a measure of time, amount, or distance: less than three weeks; less than $400; less than 50 miles. Less is sometimes used with plural nouns in the expressions no less than (as in No less than 30 of his colleagues signed the letter) and or less (as in Give your reasons in 25 words or less) – not that Americans should be concerned with proper English, which is technically a foreign language (from England) and not American. Oy. But, I digress. Here, yet again, American society rules the roost – “I want mine, I want it now, and I don’t care about what anyone else thinks or does or if I have negatively affected them, because, guess what, I got mine” (ad infinitum). And, most Americans wonder why they get such poor service in France, or why the State Department warns citizens to not travel to a list of countries that include Pakistan and Israel (which, coincidentally, are supporters and allies to the US), or why other Americans treat each other with such disdain. Regrettably, our national obsession with ‘instant gratification’ has led to a mass breach of the “10 items or less” etiquette, and yes, I use the word ‘etiquette’ here, albeit rather loosely. Actually, more of a rule than etiquette, it is more often treated like a ‘recommendation,’ much like the speed limit, which many admittedly consider as more of a suggestion of how fast one should drive their car as opposed to a rule governing how fast one should actually go. (Yes, yes, I do recognize my hypocrisy in lecturing anyone on the speed limit, or even mentioning it as a mere suggestion or even rule/law that I tend to largely ignore. I beg of you, please cease the verbal harangue about how fast I drive…I am working on it!) Nevertheless, the beloved consumer, the beloved American consumer, has misapplied the belief of the ‘pursuit of happiness’ and distorted it, creating the hideous and multi-headed ‘instant gratification’ beast, or is it a monster? Which leads us to ‘express’ (definition: adj. Of, relating to, or appropriate for rapid travel; n. A rapid, efficient system for the delivery of goods and mail and goods and mail conveyed by such a system.) lines, or lanes, at the grocery store checkout area – the "10 items or less" rule helps to facilitate the notion that express lines are exactly that, checkout areas intended for the rapid and efficient movement and delivery of, I can’t emphasize this point enough, 10 items or less. Lesson learned: Be courteous (I still have faith in the American family, which I trust is still teaching the value of good manners), which means, please, oh for the love of all that is good and right in the world, please, allow the poor guy, with the single item (flowers, to be exact), who is late for an important date, so to speak, behind you in line to check out before you place your twenty seven – yes, I counted – items, which consisted of nothing less than a superfluous amount of single serving bags of Doritos and Cheetos (get the multi-pack, equating to one item) , single serving yogurt cups (once more, think multi-pack, you will actually save yourself some money here, as well as preserve my sanity, and the sanity of others around you), tomatoes (which should be bagged together and not separated and placed as such), etc., onto the checkout lane’s conveyor belt, coupled with a further delay as you look for a pen to fill out your check – the sign at the cashier clearly said cash or credit ONLY – and present your identification, which you had to search inside of your duffle-bag sized purse, to give to the cashier as you hand over a check that you ‘accidentally’ forgot to endorse, further delaying the progress of the express line. Is that asking for too much? Or, maybe I'm just trying to satisfy my own need for instant gratification? Maybe the appearance of my own "impatience monster" has skewed and polluted my own perspective? Nah, I don't think so.