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Profiling has its practical uses Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Jul 19 2014 12:00 PM

It's hard for me to get worked up about being profiled by police and stereotyped by strangers anymore.

I used to seethe when a cop drove slowly past me, flip a U-turn, drive slowly by once more and eyeball me.

And I used to rage internally when people I’d just met would ask me where I was from. “San Diego,” I’ d tell them.

“No, I mean originally,” they would answer.

As unpleasant as that treatment is, I recognize I’m just as guilty of similar behavior.

In a grocery store I’ll cruise by the checkout lanes a number of times before I start shopping.

I want to get a sense of how many lanes are open. And I want to determine who is handling the registers.

Newbies and trainees are still learning the ropes and getting into their lines means they’d spend an inordinate amount of time looking up the code for my one navel orange. (Or is it a Valencia? Cara Cara, maybe?)

Older cashiers tend to be chirpy in the morning. I don’t want to talk about my day or the varieties of muffins they like with their morning coffee. In and out. That’s what I want to do when I swing by the market: get in, get out. Keeping chit chat and interaction to a minimum is integral to that stated objective.

But the most profiling occurs after I’ve filled my basket and just before I choose a checkout line.

Typically I use baskets and those are seldom half full, so I qualify for the 12 items or less express lanes. You’d assume that would  be the first and only checkout lane I’d want to use.

You’d be wrong.

If the cashier is a trainee and the customer is of a certain advanced age — say old enough to remind you of your grandmother’s sister — you can bet you won’t be checking out any time soon. Not only will she be slow in unloading her 15 items, she’ll also make the rest of the line wait as she searches her coin purse for the 37 cents she wants to hand the cashier so that he’ll return her an even $5 in change.

Jumping ship to another line, however, may not be the best option even if a middle-aged woman with an overflowing grocery cart and children in tow is the only customer ahead of you. She’ll most likely have a mountain of coupons to sort through in between telling her children not to beat on each other or add candy to the conveyor. Of course she’ll also quibble with the cashier over the nuances of two-for-one language on a coupon that expires that very day (but does the coupon expire when the day starts or end?).

But a lane with an attractive woman purchasing wine, cottage cheese and multi-grain chips may not be an acceptable alternative if the cashier is a male between the ages of 23 and 50 who thinks for some reason great romances start with flirtations in the checkout aisle at a local grocery store.

No, the best line to get into is the one with the cashier and customers who look disinterested, reclusive and shifty.

Someone like me.

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