Grocery baggers can be proud…

Dawn Marshall is a supermarket cashier and bagger in Upper Darby, PA. She’s so good at her job — particularly the bagging part — that people will drive out of their way, bypassing lower prices in some cases, to let her work her magic on their groceries.

From today’s Wall Street Journal:

Ms. Marshall knows how to pack the flimsy plastic bags that have largely replaced paper so they stand up on their own: Build a strong base and fashion walls using canned goods, cereal boxes and cartons. She often double-bags to prevent tearing. She makes sure odor-absorbing chicken is never placed next to bleach, bread doesn’t get smashed, and eggs don’t get broken.

And she does it all very quickly, tallying record scores in Pathmark’s competitive cashier efficiency rating system, which tracks how long it takes cashiers to scan and bag purchases. Last year, she won a National Grocers Association contest, held annually for 17 years, as the best bagger in America, based on speed, bag-building technique, weight distribution of bags, style and attitude. Her prize: $2,000 and a trophy, a ceramic paper bag that sits in a china cabinet she bought to hold it.

Now that I do most of the grocery shopping for our household (well, there’s just two of us, not counting the dog, but, still…), I’ve come to have a real and strong appreciation for the capable cashier/bagger. It’s a noble calling, actually, and one that’s quite personal. After all, these people are handling many things that will eventually go into your body and become a part of you. And I can assure you that there truly exists a phenomenon known as "check-out line time" which, like "island time," bears no relationship to the normal temporal realities beyond the ice machine. Those seconds saved by the truly efficient bagger seem to multiply considerably within that context.

I salute Dawn Marshall and those like her…they should have songs and poems composed in their honor, so that we’ll remember what once was, in those rapidly-approaching days where even the grocery checkout process is completely self-serve.