The Man at the End of the Line
One brave man with a sign stands between a seamless checkout experience and edible Armageddon at a frenzied outpost of Trader Joe’s.
In the produce section of Trader Joe’s store in the Chelsea section of New York, Karl Holman holds an eight-foot-tall sign that reads “End of Line.” It’s six o’clock on a Tuesday, and Holman is managing the line for the second time this shift.
While customers test peaches for ripeness, Holman holds the towering metal pole aloft, making the banner’s orange and yellow lettering visible to anyone who gazes up from the shelves. For the next hour, the line’s end moved constantly.
Short and stout, with a salt-and-pepper goatee and a grey Trader Joe’s T-shirt, the forty-nine-year-old Holman addresses a knot of stopped customers who are blocking traffic. “Are you ready to check out?” he asks. “Step right here.” Customers glance at his sign and then file into place.
As the line forms in front of him, he takes tiny backwards steps to keep pace with its telescoping end. His moving target keeps him in motion, and he marks it with the dedicated poise of a Queen's Guard at…
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial