21 September 2004

The Unbearable Grumpiness of the Infected

It's been a strange last few days.  I woke up last Thrusday with that pre-cold feeling in my throat, and by the time I woke up Friday it was full-blown.  For me, colds are the ultimate viral road trip.  They can't just stay in one place, they have to move around and see everything.

I can picture the family of viruses having packed up the car and belted the young ones in, going over the itinerary one last time: we'll spend the first day or so getting our bearings, then probably head up to the head.  It'll be crowded in the sinuses, so we'll really have to pack everyone in there.  From there we'll run on down to the throat, makng sure we leave it as raw as we can, before we spend the last half of the trip in the chest.  Who knows, if we enjoy it there, we just might stay longer.

Every single time I get a cold I think that perhaps this will be the one that just stays in my head, and every single time I am wrong.

I am the world's biggest wuss when I am sick.  I don't even try to deny it anymore.  Fortunately for the human race, I've been by myself for a majority of the last five days.

The weather here continues to be unbelievable, so I ventured out to the golf course Sunday to see if the sun and fresh air could help my cold go away.  I love golf and have accepted the fact that I will never be able to earn any money from it.  Still, there are times when I do things that professionals do, like carefully measure the wind and how it affects the trajectory of a shot, play the slope of the green perfectly so that the ball lands and curls towards the cup, finally coming to rest three feet short of a glorious birdie, and miss the putt...I did that at least two times Sunday, hit shots that will live on in the replay archives of my memory devoted to golf, only to miss putts that I have made while sleepwalking.

Best line of the day happened that night.  I got some color on my face as it was bright and sunny, and I failed to use sunscreen.  In the throes of my escalating cold I asked my fiance if my face felt warm, playing the oh-I'm-getting-a-fever-card (it's the dominant male gene in my family) and without missing a beat she said "um yeah, you're sunburned, remember?"

There's been a bevy of grocery stores around here that have discovered the self-checkout concept.  Except for the occassional glitch when it thinks you are bagging something that you haven't scanned yet I like the system, but on my way home Sunday I stopped to pick up a few things and came to realize that with all other "improvements", it is only a matter of time before the idiots of society mess it up.

First, I went to the store within an hour or so of the Bears' football game ending, which means that everyone who put off their shopping for three hours to watch the game was now in the store.  I'm the kind of person who wants to zip in and out, I know what I need and I want to get it.  I get annoyed at the normal activities in a crowded grocery store, carts blocking aisles and such.  I picked up five items and headed to the self-checkout lane to bypass the human element of paying for my stuff.  There are four separate stations at this particular store, and at every one was a customer with a full cart of groceries.  Behind them was a line of people waiting to use the self-checkout, and most of them had full carts as well.

So I stood in line for a "regular" cashier, someone who would actually scan my purchase, take my money, and bag it for me.  This line was long as well, but it moved OK, until the cashier needed to do something for a second and disappeared.  I was in line for about ten minutes for a purchase that wound up being less than ten dollars, and when I was done, the same four people who I noticed at the self-checkout stations were still there.

Feeling the idiot factor rising, I decided to have a seat at the bench by the exit and observe this group for a few minutes.  One was a woman who was trying to teach her elderly mother (I am assuming) how to use the self-checkout.  Not to be cruel, but I think I am a fairly good judge of looking at someone and knowing if that person can grasp technology, and this older woman clearly could not, and certainly not with a cart full of groceries.  Perhaps she could manage to pay for her "Readers Digest" there but it would still take five minutes.  Another person had a cart of items that were mostly things that you do not scan, produce, bulk foods, bakery, etc. and had to enter a description of what she had into the computer each time.

At the checkouts manned by real people, they have things like scales and price look up codes that make this a painless process, but I digress.

Another was a man wth three kids, and he was going through the self-checkout just to shut his kids up, who clearly tagged along with him so that they could scan things.  I am betting he paid a lot more for his groceries than what he should have, as I did not stick around long enough to find out.  The last terminal was freezing up on the woman who was trying to checkout, and she was clearly uncomfortable at the sight of the line behind her.  She had a look on her face that told me she was considering bolting to avoid the humiliation that she was putting upon herself, and no one was coming to her rescue.

Self-checkout is presented as a convenience to the customer, and it is of course, but it is also a positive for the business.  No cashier equals no payroll, and retail is all about controlling payroll.  I still have dreams about this, people telling me I need to cut payroll-"I don't care if you have to kill someone, cut the damn payroll..."

Anyway, I sat there for maybe three minutes and watched the festivities at the self-checkout, and marveled that at least fifteen customers left the store through the regular cashier lanes with smaller purchases while no one completed a transaction at the self-checkout.  And I am trying to think of an example when I last saw something that worked in the exact opposite manner of how it was intended to.  Regardless, I can now add something else to the long list of things attributed to "The Idiot Factor."

Things like traffic jams, the popularity of Michael Jackson, (St. Louis Cardinal fans?-HOO HAH!), the GOP-these are just some of the things I attribute to the idiot factor.

Kind of like spending 45 minutes writing about people who don't know when it is best not to help themselves.  



1 comment:

donah42 said...

I love it when you're grumpy! Hope you feel better soon!