If it weren’t for my usual mental acuity, I would never have found out about a secret offer at my local supermarket. It is 100% hush-hush – there are no leaflets, no ads, no-one says anything about it. Nevertheless, the offer enjoys great success. Several times each day, one lucky customer enjoys an extraordinary prize.
It always begins in a similar way: there are a lot of shoppers in the aisles, and just one cashier at the checkout. Or lots of customers and just two cashiers. In any case, there are not enough open checkouts to serve customers smoothly. It’s not immediately obvious, it starts imperceptibly, but at such an early stage a few can already see that something is underway.
Emotions emerge after a minute or two. The queue for the solitary open checkout is growing. People start to get nervous, look around. After a while, the queue is so long that people are reluctant to join it, one can hear sighs of impatience and various expletives. But employees almost never allow this unpleasant moment to come, so a new cashier arrives, and with the words ‘next please’ slips behind one of the closed checkouts.
And that’s the moment when the offer becomes available. The queue for the first till breaks down in half and the ones at the back land at the second checkout. But there is no strict rule regarding the order within the newly formed queue. Sometimes, someone who wasn’t queuing in the first place, pretending to have been choosing chewing gum on a stand nearby, will triumph. And so it goes.
Regardless of the style in which they beat their competition, the winner always reacts in the same manner: pierced with the eyes of other customers, they slump a little, bury their head in their arms, hurriedly unloading purchases onto the conveyor belt. A blissful smile, tinged with a hint of slyness, appears on their face.
And we shouldn’t be surprised by this smile, because whoever scores the secret deal wins that which is most valuable: life. A few or even a dozen minutes of life that they do not have to spend in a checkout line.
Any forward-thinking person will sooner or later ask themselves: can one play the game and accumulate the rewards in order to earn immortality? The answer is: no.
Translated from the Polish by Joanna Figiel