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Checking Out

     I'm pulling things out of my grocery cart fast as I can, swiping them across the glass check-out panel and tossing them in my self-brought bags quick! before that machine says another word. We're in a race, she 'n me.

     For several years I've been taking advantage of the self-checkout option. At first it was to avoid the long lines for the checkers but soon it became my checkout of choice. There's a certain self-satisfaction in ringing up your own groceries and bagging them just so—all the frozens together; all the colds together; the heavy stuff at the bottom of the bag; the light stuff thrown in on top. Can't think of anything more fun than that!

     Okay. A few things are more fun but we won't get into that right now.

     I didn't used to be swiping and bagging in such a competitive race with the machine. The first self-checkout machine was quite accommodating, but as you know, there's one sure thing about technology: its creators are never satisfied. They're always "improving" with new upgrades. So it was inevitable that Ralphs—as soon as we got used to their self-checkout machines—would replace them with an upgrade.

     Thus beginneth the race. You should see me. I walk up to the machine, punch in my "alternative ID" to be sure I get all the discounted prices, and start scanning. Oh! First I have to tell her—the machine—I'm using my own bags. She tells me to put them on the shelf to be weighed. After thinking it over, she tells me the weight is not legitimate. I take a couple of bags off the shelf and she relents. Okay. Ready, go!

     Before she says to scan my first item I've already scanned it and heard the beep. She drones on, "Two dollars, fifty-eight cents; credit one dollar." 'Course I have to take one of my bags off the shelf to get the peanut butter in it. Immediately she squawks, "Put the item removed back on the shelf," but by now the peanut butter is sitting calmly at the bottom of the bag and I'm on to the next item.

     I pull three granola bars out of my cart and quick swipe! toss in bag! swipe! toss in bag! swipe! toss in bag! before she can say, "one dollar twenty cents, credit ten cents" three times. We're in a race and I'm winning!

     The race continues until she breaks the rhythm. "Remove the last item placed in the bag and scan it." I don't know which item she's talking about—I've just put two items in the bag. I scanned both of them. "Which item?" I ask. She repeats, "Remove the last item placed in the bag and scan it." "What item?!" I mutter.

     Obviously I'm not cooperating so she scolds, "Help is on the way." I wait. And I wait. No help is in sight. I wait some more. All the time she's repeating, "Help is on the way. Help is on the way."

     "Is not." I say. Meanwhile my ice cream is getting warm and my patience is—well, I guess you know. I try removing one of my last items and rescanning it but that doesn't work. She won't stop saying "Help is on the way."

     I liked the old machine better. This one talks too much. I still like to check myself out—I mean check my groceries out. It's kind'a fun, you know, playing "What's in the bag?" with a machine. And yes, help did come.

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