I've said before, one of the interesting things about Israel is the lack of lines. At shops, kiosks and many similar places lines just do not exist. It's the person closest to the shop keeper that gets served first. One place I thought this would be different were stores that have clearly defined registers and lanes. Alas, this is not so.
I've heard it from other people, but I had never experienced the lack of a line in a grocery store. This morning while I was at Mister Zol (Mister Cheap), there were a lot of people shopping because there is another holiday tonight and I think stores are closed tomorrow. I fight my way through the store, gathering all of my groceries and then get towards the front of the store. Apparently leaving a cart in line marks your spot enough to go get more things and return to have moved up in line.
As I approached the line, the woman in the line next to me pointed out that the abandoned cart actually had an owner who would be returning. Since my "on the spot" vocabulary is not that great, I didn't know how to explain to this woman that I understood what she was saying and that the owner could have their spot if they returned before the belt was cleared so I could put my stuff down. I responded with, "okay." Apparently this is not the appropriate response and I got a great eye-roll and look from this woman.
When the "owner" returned to her place in line, I of course let her have her place in line. This was when she realized that she had forgotten something else and told me that I could move in front of her and she would return. I guess this was her saying that I needed to guard her place. I told her that I wasn't the last in line and that she would need to talk to the person after me (I was able to explain this in Hebrew on the spot).
My purchase was finished and I was putting my groceries in my bag when the woman returned. Surprising to her, the customer after me had started unloading her groceries and a man had moved in with his few items behind her. The first customer (the woman that let me go in front of her) was upset and had a brief, frustrated discussion with this man. In disgust she moved in behind him.
This is so strange to me and probably is to people back in the USA. Apparently the man's decision to move forward is a faux pas, even in a place with distinct lines. I'm getting better at this culture, but there are still some things that just don't make sense to me.