A Funny Thing Happened While Standing in Line at CVS

or, I’d Heard About Criminals Being Stupid But Now I’ve Actually Seen It

Two people were in front of me in line, and I was thinking that if only I’d just bought what I’d come for, I’d be out of here and walking back across the parking lot to work already. But oh, no. I had to go look at the Burt’s Bees display, until I remembered that I’d placed myself under strict instructions to not buy anymore lip gloss or lipstick until I’ve used up the ten tubes cluttering my bathroom vanity drawer. In that two minutes, the checkout line had backed up. Only two clerks were in the CVS: one at the check out counter and the other helping a customer get a passport photo. So now I was mentally kicking myself for being inefficient and wasting time on a Friday afternoon.

Pretty much how I was feeling standing in line.

My thoughts of supreme irritation were interrupted by two young men who walked into the store. One was tall and other was shorter, wearing a red shirt. They stopped a few feet inside the door and looked around like they were lost. Then they disappeared down an aisle.

The taller one re-emerged with a cooler propped on his shoulder. He said to the check-out clerk “How much is this, partner?” His address was so familiar I thought that he knew the checkout clerk personally. One glance at the clerk’s face told me he didn’t know this guy from Adam. “I’ll be there in a minute,” he replied, because, hello, he was checking out customers. Me being third in line.

Then I was second in line. All this for a 12-pk of toilet paper.

“Don’t try to open that. It’s locked.” The clerk was looking to my right. The tall guy with the cooler and the short guy in the red shirt were standing in front of the perfume display along the wall on the other side of the entrance doors.

“We’re just looking, man,” said the tall guy.

I had this weird deja-vu moment. I swear I’d been standing in this very line with this very clerk saying these words to a customer, and the customer getting defensive. And me feeling the tension, thinking that maybe the clerk was being a little paranoid.

“We were just looking, man,” the guy repeated.

“Okay.” The clerk continued ringing up the customer in front of me.

Then I started thinking, how many guys does it take to look at a perfume wall? I glanced over at them again.

It all happened in slo-mo. The short guy in the red shirt jimmied the latch on the lock and flipped it loose. He slid back the sliding glass door.

I looked back at the clerk behind the counter to tell him, “He’s opening the door.”

The clerk looked over at his comrade who was taking the passport photo.

A loud clattering jerked my attention back to the wall.

The short guy was throwing perfume bottles by the armful into the cooler as the tall guy held it open.

The clerks started running. They started hauling ass.

And these guys just kept tossing perfume into the cooler like it was going out of style. In front of God, customers, and two clerks who were coming to get them.

The check out clerk yanked the cooler out of the tall guy’s hands. The passport photo taking clerk grabbed the shorter guy’s arm. Perfume boxes fell to the floor. Even the customer in front of me ran over to help out. “You guys are fucking idiots,” he yelled at the would-be thieves as they fled out the door.

I was just standing there like

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“I cannot believe I just saw all that,” I said as the clerks, breathless and a little adrenaline charged, returned to their posts. With the cooler full of perfume boxes.

So, if I’d gotten the one thing I’d come for and immediately checked out, I’d have missed all the excitement. It was definitely more entertaining than being at my desk drawing cross-functional flow diagrams. Lord, I just crashingly bored myself typing that sentence. But instead, I was laughing all afternoon at witnessing what my Receptionist later referred to as “not a well-thought-out plan.”

Of course, it was only funny because the CVS clerks recovered their merch.

Well done, men.

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