Al Batt: I love cashiers and those little checkout dividers

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt

My right sock was on its last leg.

Al Batt

One of my big toes, even with a tamed nail, has a violent streak and insists on boring holes into my poor socks.

Email newsletter signup

I thought of that because I hadn’t had my second cup of coffee of the morning. I hadn’t even had my first. I don’t drink coffee.

Being distracted by a holey sock might be why I’d charged what, until that moment, had been an unassailable fortress.

I used a self-checkout, something I’d told myself I’d never do. I couldn’t hide in a corner forever. It’s another example of why we should never say never. My resolve had sunk like the Titanic.

I’d been gadding about and visited a store. I had one item and no need to use the shopping cart with one bad wheel, which the store couldn’t fix because shoppers don’t return them to the cart corral for regular servicing. The cashiers were swamped. “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore. We must be over the rainbow!” I said to myself.

Something had to give. I had to scurry in a hurry. I needed to be where I wasn’t. Wishes danced with hope. I analyzed my situation and slapped together just enough gumption to tackle the mysteries of a self-checkout kiosk.

How did it go? I don’t know. It worked. I hadn’t practiced or watched a helpful video online. A bagpipe player needs 42.7 acres to learn how to play that instrument. I was worried I’d need 42.7 minutes to learn how to do a self-checkout.

I’d approached the kiosk with trepidation. I wondered what would happen if I’d put my palm flat on the scanner. I pushed my own buttons. The scanner played me like a giant fiddle. A young fellow who wasn’t quite a cashier circled me like a vulture, concerned I’d need help. I suspect part of his job was to keep people honest. There is a shoplifting tactic that has become so commonplace it has a name. The “banana trick” is putting an item through a self-checkout as a cheap fruit or vegetable product and walking out with a much more expensive item.

The self-checkout was convenient. A robot voice told me to put the item in the bag. I didn’t want to. It was just one item. I didn’t want a bag. I had to push a button to silence its bagging nagging.

It was a soft landing. I repeated one of Lawrence Welk’s favorite compliments, “Wunnerful, wunnerful, wunnerful!”

I didn’t really find the experience wunnerful or wonderful, but I was thrilled to be done with the simple procedure.

Why was I loathe to use self-checkout? It just doesn’t seem right. I worry it will cost a cashier a job. I was never a member of the rock band Rage Against the Machine. Again, I should never say never. So, I don’t remember being a member of the rock band Rage Against the Machine. Perhaps I avoid the kiosks because, in my formative years, people used the word “conformist” as an insult, implying someone lacked the brains or the guts to question the status quo.

A friend says he doesn’t want to pay a store to let him work in it. I was capable of using self-checkout. I’d used self-checkout before. It was the honor system used at roadside stands to sell eggs, apples, sweet corn and honey.

I watched another self-checkouter struggle repeatedly as if it were a deleted scene from the movie “Groundhog Day,” before the pseudo-cashier rode in like the cavalry.

Humans make haste. We have rats to race. People are eager to get back to doing something productive, like binge-watching a reality TV series about people who had lost their cashier jobs.

Freedom isn’t just another word for “self-checkout kiosk”? I’ve been in the self-checkout arena, man against the machine. I’m not a sluggard. I did volunteer work in a grocery store and didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt.

Life is a series of giving up things I’ve always done and doing things I’ve never done.

I missed using a grocery conveyor belt checkout divider.

And I fell more in love with cashiers.

Have a nice day, kiosk.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.