I walked up to the check-out lines at the front of the Rock’n’Roll Ralph’s on Sunset. 10:00 p.m. I had four items. Paper towels, razor blades, roll-on, and Tide.

There was a quandary. The 10 items or less line had three people in it. Right next door was an aisle with only one guy, and his groceries had already been scanned. He looked to be in his 20’s or 30’s, with sandy-colored, wavy hair. Not a senior citizen, no coupons. I went with the short line.

I took a moment to put my purchases on the conveyor belt, then realized that the guy was still there. The check out lady had a curious expression on her face. I looked over, and the man had pulled out a California Driver’s License, three credit cards, and an Auto Club card, and placed them all on the check-stand. He seemed confused. He had that look that one gets in a foreign country when the cashier tells you how much your purchase is in a language you don’t understand. So you start pulling out bills until they seem satisfied.

In this case, the cashier said, helpfully, “We take credit cards,” and she pointed to a Visa card in the line-up on the stand in front of her. The man, relieved, picked up the card and handed it to her. She handed it back and pointed to the little ATM/credit card reader in front of the man.

After a couple of attempts to slide the card the wrong way, the bag boy intervened and showed him the proper direction to slide the card. Then he showed the man how to choose “Yes” when asked if the transaction amount was OK.

The cash register sprang to life and printed out a credit card receipt. The cashier gave it to the man, who promptly put it in his wallet. She explained that he needed to sign that copy. After finding the pen stuck into the March of Dimes box, he signed the receipt and put it back in his wallet. The woman then explained that she was supposed to keep that copy.

“Ah. OK.”

The receipt was returned, the man’s groceries were already bagged and in the cart in front of him.

Moving on with maximum efficiency, the cashier scanned my four items and Ralph’s Club Card. The man was still before the check-stand, putting all of his cards back in his wallet.

Not paying attention, the bag boy bagged my groceries and added them to the man’s cart.

“Uh, I think those are mine.”

The man began to wheel the cart away.

Louder: “Excuse me! Some of those bags are mine.”

The man stopped.

“Oh. Sorry.”

The bag boy removed my articles, and the man continued forward a couple of feet. Then he stopped, removed his receipt from his wallet, and studied it.

I paid for my groceries, picked up my bags, and headed out into the night, exhilarated at having made contact, however briefly, with an alien being on his first visit to Earth.