“But I have way more than eight items,” I said. I was stocking up. The beer fridge is outside, so I only have to go big shopping once a month–or less.

“That’s okay,” she said. She directed me to express. It was a ghost town over there. Everyone else was using the self-check line. I hate those. I want to tell someone to have a nice day. I don’t want cashiers replaced by robots and scanners.

I looked down at my cart. There were at least twenty items–way more than eight. I got nervous about breaking the rule.

The girl at express smiled. I confessed. “I have more than eight items. She told me to go.” I didn’t want to be ungrateful and throw the manager under the bus, but twenty items is not eight.

“That’s okay, as long as I keep busy. It makes the day move faster.”

I put my things on the counter and started to rationalize. Maybe the three milks counted as one. One category. If that were true, the twelve containers of half and half could be one–I put them in a box for easy transport, and the cheeses could be one, too. That significantly lowered my count.

That’s what I was thinking as a guy came up behind me in line. He stared, knowing I had way more than eight items on any planet that used rational numbers. I couldn’t feel indignant–I’d have counted his stuff, too. We’re all looking to indict someone. It’s the American way. We don’t want people to move out of line, we just want to be right. Being right makes us feel a little better about ourselves.

The cashier finished. “That’ll be $101.”  I forked over the coupons. As if my twenty items weren’t enough, I had a pile of coupons. “Next she’ll be writing checks or asking to run back for an item she forgot,” the man thought.

It’s so hard to break the rules. Maybe that’s because I spend all day teaching them expecting kids to follow what I say. A girl brought me a well-packed snowball yesterday. “For you, Miss.”  I wanted to throw it at anyone in the hallway who was running late to class. I stepped out and found a couple targets.

“Nah, I can’t throw this at you,” I said to a group of late girls. “You’re nice…But you,” I turned to one of my perpetually late seniors, “I would enjoy throwing this snowball at you.” He laughed.

I wondered if throwing snowballs in the hall might violate rules. I don’t recall seeing a statute about that. Still, it was improper. When I was a student, teachers could do anything. Now, teachers have to be nice all the time. Since throwing snow isn’t “nice” on many levels, I didn’t throw it. I told the kid I could get more daring someday, so he should go to class.

Unable to break two rules in one week, I set about teaching.

I’m trying to train my kids to break a few more rules than me. Maybe it’ll lead them to big things. I should practice stepping outside of silly rules and conventions myself. It’s the way the big problems get solved. I’ll have to work up to it, though. Next time I go to express, I’m going to ramp things up. I might buy 21 items. We’ll have to wait and see.

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