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Waiting in Line
Mom with a View

Waiting in Line

I can't let everyone go ahead of me. What's a religious Jewish woman to do?


I have a slightly more serious dilemma than last week and I welcome your feedback. I spend a lot of time at the grocery store. In fact, at a number of grocery stores. And it’s not because I’m an inefficient shopper (at least that’s not the only reason). We go through a lot of food and our storage space is limited (which really limits those Costco runs) so it seems that every time I turn around, I’m making another shopping list.

I don’t mind grocery shopping – depending on the number of stores, the lines, my mood, the mood of the other customers… I like to see if there are new kosher products, I like to get creative cooking ideas, I like to schmooze with the friends I run into there.

But there is one experience that leaves me puzzled and sometimes a little frustrated. Despite the frequency of my trips to said stores, I always have a huge load. I still find myself stocking up. The cart is usually full to overflowing by the time I get to the checkout.

And it is a common occurrence that someone will be standing behind me with one or two items. So I let them go ahead. It’s just a few minutes. I would be holding them up for a long time. I would want someone to do the same for me. (And I like the praise and gratitude!)

Then another customer appears with a similarly small load. They didn’t see that I just let someone go in front of me. Or maybe they don’t care because they also don’t want to wait. They ask if they can go first. I agree but my enthusiasm begins to wane.

When it gets to the third person, my patience has reached its limit. My time is also valuable, I say to myself (I try not to say “more” valuable). At some point I just have to step up and take my turn.

But then I worry about what people will think.

Anyone who recently joined one of the checkout lines didn’t see me allow two others go in front of me. All they observe is an apparently selfish woman with a full cart. And a religious Jewish one woman to boot. I feel terrible leaving that impression yet I can’t stand all day and let everyone go ahead of me, can I? Help!!

I think I just need to get confident with the middle ground I seem to have struck and learn to leave with the discomfort and the disapproval. And the stares and dirty looks. And all those other shoppers who don’t know me at all but now have a very negative impression.

I like lines. I like order. Lines seem to establish a certain fair distribution of service and waiting time. (Although many would probably argue that there is some type of Murphy’s Law that you would always choose the wrong line, the one where the cashier is yelling “Price check, please”.) It’s a system that works and that seems to treat everyone’s time equally.

It seems to have consideration as its underpinnings. And if you shopped at places where people have no respect for lines you really know what I mean! So if I take my proper turn in line, even if it’s in front of others with “just a few things,” haven’t I behaved properly? Aren’t I entitled to the same respect and consideration? Are those with larger grocery loads to be penalized? (I’m sure the store owners would not want that.)

I don’t want to be cavalier about anyone else’s needs but I don’t want to feel taken advantage of either.

Perhaps a number limit will make it simple to solve. If you have more than two items, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait your turn. Well, make that more than three. Okay, you only have four, go ahead…

May 22, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 56

(51) Melissa, August 7, 2012 10:26 PM

try this...

I've had the same dilema and I found that a solution that works is that I put on my biggest apologetic smile and say : "I'm so sorry, I've already let 3 people go ahead of me..." Most people understand.

(50) Sue, June 29, 2011 12:10 PM

People need to be patient too

You are not being rude to say no to someone going in front of you after letting the first one go , If the line ups are to busy then they need to open a new one , there should be a quick line for the ones with only a couple items , which get long to , however the is quicker to get through, when getting groceries most people go with the realization that they will have to wait in line for a bit anyways , and there is many people who have large orders these days and are willing also to let someone go first , You have been nice and let someone go first , its not all up to you ,and if you let someone go first already and someone else happens along , take no guilt in not letting them go first , complain to the store and tell them your feelings and perhaps they can except some of the responsibility , It doesn"t rest soley on your shoulders to burden , You are nice but not to be mistaken for a sucker. Your kindness in the first place is the kindness that mattered . Hope this helped

(49) Sarah Green, June 3, 2011 7:34 PM

Waiting in line

Hi I can see you live in the States! If it's any consolation I have lived here in Israel for 2 years and the religious Jewish women have no qualms about either saying no when letting others go in front, or pushing someone who was in front of them out of the way to go first! Here in Afula everyone is just as aggressive, and almost everyone has the right to go first (whether actually first in line or not!). Once at the doctor's people pushed a blind man out of the way and jumped the queue (3 religious people included). I was horrified and kicked up a hissy, then the nurse realised and called the man in!

(48) Anonymous, June 3, 2011 1:15 PM

wait in line

What does being religious or even Jewish have anything to do with letting someone go before you in line. Do what you feel is right.

(47) Carolina, May 31, 2011 12:51 AM

Being a religious Jewish woman has nothing to do with being a religious Jewish woman who doesn't know how to say "no". You are probably as busy as the next person, and if you are feeling particularly generous of your time, by all means, let one go first, but two? Three?? Come on, just point the obnoxious young person to the express lane.

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