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GUEST COLUMN

No checkbooks at checkout line

Invariably the person in front of me in the grocery store checkout line pays by check. In addition to using this tedious, outdated method of payment, anyone who still possesses a checkbook also waits until all their purchases have been rung up to get it out of whatever subterranean hiding place she keeps it.

This endless digging in pockets, purses or whatever a man calls his bag, gets followed by a protracted search for a pen. Once the writing instrument has been found the check writer then proceeds to treat every letter as if he were signing the Declaration of Independence.

Nobody who holds up a line in this way ever turns back to the crowd and offers an apology. This especially galls me when I'm waiting in the "express" line since the name of that particular queue suggests that anyone standing in it values expediency.

Admittedly, I am heroically impatient. I'll put items back in order to qualify for the express line and I've been known to leave a Dunkin Donuts when the person in front of me produces an elaborate list of sandwiches he intends to purchase for every person at his office.

Still, I hardly think my impatience is unjustified when someone insists on paying in a manner that's only slightly less inefficient than counting out change for the cashier. Check writing might have been a marvel of convenience in 1973, but those days ended as soon as banks starting giving anyone with a checking account a debit card.

These cards, which work like credit cards and draw funds out of the owner's checking account, make it unnecessary for everyone besides mafia bosses and strip club patrons to carry huge wads of cash. Once we had debit cards, check writing in retail stores became only a little more modern than trying to swap beads or barter with the cashier for your groceries.

While some people still pay bills by mail using checks, even that has become unnecessary as all banks offer computerized methods of paying. Mailing a check to pay for electricity, cable or any other household expense, does not, however, inconvenience the strangers waiting in line behind you, so if you want to continue doing that, it's fine with me.

Once you make the decision to abandon the check as a method of paying for retail purchases, you should also avoid the person who does not know how to use his debit card. This guy also lurks in grocery stores seemingly unaware of his own PIN number and just randomly pressing buttons on the keypad hoping something will happen.

Learning to use a debit card requires remembering a four-digit password and answering a few command prompts. Still, we've all been behind the person who cannot decide if they want cash back or the guy who accidentally chooses to do his transaction in a language he does not speak.

Grocery shopping takes long enough without other people slowing down the process. Common courtesy dictates that everyone take all reasonable steps to not inconvenience other people.

Daniel B. Kline's book, "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How to Do," is available in bookstores everywhere. He can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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