Hey, check this out!

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Rick Ryckeley
It’s time once again, Dear Reader, for me to venture down into the dark and dank basement. Fighting off the ever-increasing hoard of Spider Crickets, I shall retrieve my soapbox; bringing it back up into the light, and standing upon it once more.
Something I thought would never happen has happened in our sleepy little town. It warrants my pontification, and it’s not that on the weekends our streets are full of Zombies (They film that famous TV show in our downtown.) Zombies are slow walkers and are easily avoided.
It’s not that taxes and water bills are going up once more. That seems to be a yearly occurrence and much scarier than all those slow walkers wanting you to take a picture with them. So what’s got my shorts up in a bunch and me standing atop my soapbox this time? Hey, just check this out.
Self-checkout lanes first occurred at our local grocery store years ago. Immediately I wasn’t a fan. If I wanted to check out my own groceries I’d become a cashier. I don’t so I didn’t. Besides, I like our grocery cashiers, and a self-checkout lane puts someone out of a job. I’m certainly not a fan of anyone losing his or her job.
I’m also not a fan of scanning my items only having to call for help because I can’t do it correctly. So, for the last ten years, I’ve avoided the self-checkout lane in our local grocery store like I avoid those Zombies in our downtown. I’d rather have nothing to do with either.
But now those dreaded things (self-checkout lanes, not Zombies) have arrived at the one sanctuary I thought would be safe from this hideous big brother change – the giant hardware store with the big orange roof.
It used to be my home away from home. There’s nothing more welcoming than dodging forklifts speeding up and down aisles. Or watching overhead as reach trucks pull down heavy items from shelving 30 feet up in the air. Air that’s filled with the wonderful smells of freshly cut oak, pine, or birch lumber wafting from the cut-to-order saws in the middle of the store.
The store even has areas that you can try-before-you-buy the newest pneumatic or battery-operated tools. There’s just nothing better than the smell of pneumatic oil and the sound of power tools first thing in the morning.
In a word, the giant hardware store was perfect. Perfect until somebody wearing a white shirt and orange apron had a bright idea to get rid of all but one of the cashier checkout lanes. Replacing all of them with self-checkout lanes.
Walking into the store last Saturday morning, greeted by the smells of freshly cut wood, I picked up a few items and made my way to the front of the store for a quick check out. Or so I thought. Got news for that smart guy wearing a white shirt and orange apron … the self-checkout idea ain’t working!
Scanning a can of peas at the local grocery store is a lot different than trying to scan ten different sizes of nuts, washers, screws, or bolts one at a time. How could it be faster when every other item doesn’t scan correctly? Or the screen asks you politely to wait for help from, you guessed it, a cashier.
Of the six self-checkout lanes, each had a frustrated customer glaring at the display screen flashing: Cashier assistance needed.
When an equally frustrated cashier finally made her way over to my lane, I asked, “Whose bright idea was it to get rid of all the cashiers? Half the time I can’t find shirts to match my pants and now I’m expected to be able to check out all this stuff myself?”
She smiled and told me that they hadn’t gotten rid of anyone. Seems it takes just as many cashiers to help check folks out using self-checkout as it did the old way. After the machine took my money and spat out change, I made it back to my car noticing that the quick trip to the giant hardware store with the orange roof had taken twice as long as normal.
I’m ashamed to admit: I made fun of my Dad when he didn’t keep up with the newest technology. Things like universal remotes, smart TVs, and the latest iPhones seemed to befuddle him. Now I understand.
Perhaps it wasn’t that he couldn’t keep up, rather he just liked the way things used to be. And if that guy in the white shirt wearing an orange apron happens to be reading this column, I implore you: get rid of all those self-checkout lanes!
A live cashier with a friendly smile is much better than a cold machine any day. With my rant now over, I can return my soapbox to the basement…and spend time trying to match up pants with shirts. I wonder what will match my orange vest I plan to wear next time I have to be my own cashier?
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]