By Rebecca Munsterer Sabky
Last night, after eating Triscuits for dinner for the second night in a row, I decided to go on a grocery run. I closed the fridge, put on my “fancy” sweatpants, and left the house. After an hour of perusing the various types of shredded wheat cereals, I had a sufficient cart of edibles for the week.
As I pushed my cart towards the exit of the store, I was faced with the soccer mom’s conundrum. Do I take my fifteen items (give or take an item or two) to the Ten Items or Less checkout, or do I wait on the massive line for the regular check out? As a seemingly law-abiding citizen (I won’t admit otherwise), I decided to not violate the Ten Items or Less code. Instead, I decided to attempt the greatest game in the history of the 21st century: Check! Your! Self! Out!
For those of you new to this particular game show, the object is simple. Scan your items and place them in a shopping bag without needing the assistance of a grocery clerk. Sounds easy, right? Wrong! Check! Your! Self! Out! is a sly combination of Jeopardy and Press Your Luck.
The contestant must first successfully locate and scan the UPC code on a particular item. Then, the item must be placed in a plastic grocery bag on a scale which is programmed to predetermine the weight of that project. Once a bag is full, the contestant must remove the bag from the scale without aggravating the system.
I’ve been a contestant on this show for about five years now. But, I’ve yet to win. Yesterday, I once again gave it my best shot.
First, I picked items which were easy to scan.The box of cereal with the clear UPC code on the bottom. The bar of soap. The instant rice box. So far, so good. The items matched their predetermined weight on the scale. Once they were safely bagged, I used a careful maneuver to remove the first full bag from the scale and back into my shopping cart. I had survived the first round of competition. Moving on!
The second round was a bit trickier. I successfully navigated the scanning of a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream pint. (I had previously made a rookie mistake in another game when I forgot to swipe the ice crystals from the UPC code.) I also performed scanner gymnastics to correctly align the UPC code on corner of a carton of seltzer. (Who says sweatpants at the grocery store aren’t appropriate?) And lastly, I was able to squash a tube of moisturizer just enough as to flatten the code for the scanner without popping open the cap. With the finesse of a pickpocket, I swiped the second bag from the scale and to my cart. Success! It was a close call, but I had made it on to the final round.
The final round of Check! Your! Self! Out! is notoriously impossible. It is the dreaded produce checkout. To win the game, I needed to successfully weigh, identify, and bag my tomatoes. I started by placing the tomatoes on the scanner for the weigh-in. The machine informed me that I was purchasing 1.23 pounds of misunderstood fruits. (You, too, thought they were a vegetables, right?) Then, I was required to identify the variety of tomatoes. My options were bountiful. There were beefsteak tomatoes.Tomatoes from the vine. Roma tomatoes. I looked at my purchased tomatoes. They were red and round and generic. In fact, they resembled all of the tomatoes on the screen.
Other customers were now lined up behind me. The ticking of my Swatch watch added to the drama of not knowing the correct answer to the tomato question. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. I considered using a lifeline and phoning a friend. I considered asking the audience on line. I even considered running back to the tomato display (à la the old 90’s game show Supermarket Sweep) to identify where I first picked up these buggers. But as my Swatch tick-tocked, I knew I needed be a big girl and make my best guess. I closed my eyes and chose beefsteak. To my delight, the scanner accepted my answer. I was home free.
But as we all know, no good game is over until it’s over. (Vanna doesn’t change out of her ballgown until the final puzzle is solved.) As I leaned over to place the “beefsteak” tomatoes in their appropriate grocery bag, my wallet accidentally fell out of my pocket. It landed with a thump in the plastic bag, and the weight of the wallet jammed the machine.
Unexpected item in bagging area!!!
The lights above the checkout flashed and the customers in line sighed with disappointment. They knew I would have to wait for a supermarket clerk to come reset the machine.
I looked down at the ground with disgust. I had lost yet another round of Check! Your! Self! Out! There would be no prize but to get out of the supermarket alive.
Photocredit: Andy Ward, Andyward.com/Michael O’Mara books .