The first thing I thought years ago when I encountered the very first ‘self check-outs’ at our local grocery store was, “Great. Now not only do I have to pack my own groceries, I have to check them out too.”
You see, as a youth, I worked for five years at the local grocery store. I was a shelf-stocker, check-out girl, grocery packer, carry-out girl, and even worked on occasion wrapping and weighing produce and meat (we didn’t have scales at the checkout, or a conveyor on the counter).
I wouldn’t even think of someone pack their own groceries or carry more than one bag to the car alone. But that was long, long ago darling, and far, far away.
Now, as the mother of a teenager, I seem to be the floor-show on a regular basis, and there’s nothing he likes to see more than his wise, sophisticated mother lose her cool. Tonight when I asked if he wanted to go get some groceries with me, he tagged along, secretly plotting our trip to the self check-out.
There’s nothing that can consistently make me lose my cool more than when I use the self check-out.
Basically, I’m faster than the machine that weighs measures, and makes sure I’m not shop lifting a bazillion extra pounds of food. This inadvertently causes alarms and multiple calls to the self check-out police. Usually these folks are women putting in part-time retirement hours, or teenaged boys who don’t need to shave more than twice a month and could give a crap less about who you are, what you came for, or where you’re going next.
The check-out is a measure of our quality of civilization, a short stop in your day to say hello to another human being, perhaps exchange opinions about the quality of whatever you’re purchasing and discussing what might be the topic of the day.
Not any more.
Our interactions are increasingly becoming automated and mind-numbing. Remember going to a bank to transfer funds, cash a cheque, or withdraw cash? Yah, I hardly remember it either.
We no longer discuss or question our purchases, we load the cart and scan ourselves out of the store.
Although the self check out has cost me the human interaction with the cashier and the ‘bag-boy’, it has helped create a bond between my kiddo and I. I’m always goaded into checking out my own groceries, and we usually giggle through the entire process.
It took me two trips over to the-kid-who-could-care-less in order to scan my baguette. One visit from the kid-who-could-care-less because I took the eggs out of my bag to make room for the peaches, and six attempts before the darn thing accepted my new, plastic twenty-dollar bill.
Ah yes. Self check-out, another illusion of freedom.
Self check-out, another opportunity to practice patience, have a giggle and bond with my teenager.
It’s all about perspective.