It’s been said that we either have too many laws or too few. And while I’m not advocating for either position, it’s clear that we all witness transgressions on a daily basis that go unpunished.

It’s been said that we either have too many laws or too few.


And while I’m not advocating for either position, it’s clear that we all witness transgressions on a daily basis that go unpunished.


The transgressors get away with their egregious acts because there’s no appropriate penalty established. This quandary can no more clearly be illustrated than at the supermarket express aisle.


According to Dictionary.com, the word “express” in the sense applied here means, “direct or fast, especially making few or no intermediate stops.”


That means the supermarket express aisle’s express purpose is to move you through more quickly than the traditional line where you might end up behind a survivalist stocking up in anticipation of nuclear winter.


That’s why the number of items that can be purchased in the express aisle has a limit. These boundaries can differ from supermarket to supermarket, some adhering to 10 items, others ranging as high as up to 15. The common element is that the finite total of items that can be purchased is clearly stated in a prominent sign dangling over shoppers’ heads.


The rules are explicit, and those who choose to bring 11 items to the cashier in a line limited to no more than 10 items know in their hearts how wrong they are, and, moreover, well understand how much their fellow shoppers would like to give them a good smack.


They are violating a social contract. We all know this.


But there is another, even more insidious assault made on the express line’s time-honored purpose of returning buyers of less than 10 items to their lives in less time than the traditional check-out queue.


These are the people who use plastic to consummate their express-line purchase.


Let’s go over the “express” definition once again - “direct or fast, especially making few or no intermediate stops.”


The whole use of plastic sets in motion a series of “intermediate stops.” Not only does the use of plastic in the express line add intermediate stops, the people employing plastic in the express line invariably aren’t up to the procedural demands posed by using plastic in the express line.


They swipe once, twice, thrice, a puzzled grin plastered on their faces, until the checkout person must intervene and talk them through the act, as if the process had the complexity of landing a commercial airliner.


They then hit the wrong button at least twice, once again necessitating an intervention on the part of the checkout person.


Then, in a final maddening act, the query “Do you want cash back?” leaves them as stumped as if they had been asked to translate the Gettysburg Address into Mandarin Chinese.


What can we do to rehabilitate these people?


I recommend a fine, say 10 percent of their overall purchase. The money thus raised can then be used for research into the neurological factors playing a role in what can only be termed the “express-line outrage.”


Frank Mulligan is an editor in GateHouse Media Service’s Raynham, Mass., office. He can be reached at fmulliga@cnc.com.