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Monday, December 27, 2010

Huffing Post

I was held up by a computer today at Home Depot.

Usually I get into the self-checkout line, because I can always convince myself it is quicker than going to a live cashier. It never is, though. Human cashiers are professionals and can resolve problems immediately. They have override power and can enter bar code numbers manually when the self-checkout scanners refuse to do so. The self-checkout stations draw in the mentally challenged, the illiterate, and as a special holiday treat, French Canadians, who generally fit into both categories.

I deceive myself into believing that the self-checkout is quicker because of the shorter lines. Let's say there are three people in line at self-checkout, and there are two self-checkout stations available, The shorter line should move faster than being behind six people in a living, breathing, single cashier line. I do try to pre-screen the people in front of me. If the person at station A is using in a Jazzy and buying 12-foot-lengths of lumber, and the person at station B is speaking rustic French to no one, it’s time to find another self-checkout line.

This time I was next in line at a self-checkout. At station A, there was a woman who apparently knew what she was doing and was scanning her hardware as a professional cashier would. At station B, there was a man who had four large, sewer-sized PVC fittings. One of them would scan; three wouldn’t. He was very frustrated and was actually screaming at the computer: “C’mon! I don’t have time for this shit!” Considering he probably had a septic tank emergency happening at his home, I believed him. He tried sliding the pipe; he tried rolling. He tried both bottom and side scanners. Nothing worked.

Meanwhile, the self-checkout monitor was ignoring all the problems of all the self-checker-outers. Eating a chicken wing and filing down her expensive acrylic nails while chatting on her Bluetooth, this multi-tasker had clearly selected the least customer friendly tasks.

The woman at Station A, meanwhile, was performing a deep cavity search on herself, in a feeble attempt to locate her debit card.

I was stuck there. Meanwhile the seventh person in the living, breathing, single cashier lane where I should have been had taken his receipt and handed it to the store security guard. This outsourced employee was an illiterate 9-year old dressed in an ill-fitting shirt with pseudo-police patches (which probably belonged to his alcoholic father/mother who was out on a holiday binge at the time). The child made a big, pink-highlighter X on the receipt, without even bothering to look at or count the customer’s items.

Over her Bluetooth, the self-checkout monitor finally heard the PVC man’s computer rage, toothpicked out the chicken residue from her teeth, blew the acrylic dust off her plastic nails and shuffled over to the screaming man, and guided him over to her place.

The checkout screen that was now mine informed me that, “Your order has been cancelled.” I waited and waited for the screen that asked me to pick the language I wanted, but, of course, that never happened. I touched the “call attendant” button, which only served to bring up on my screen four PVC fittings. Before I could respond, the angry man returned from the attendant’s station and said, “I just have to pay now. He pulled the credit card from his wallet and selected “Cash” as his method of payment.

I don’t need to go on, do I? By this time, the lady at Station A had moseyed off to the Outdoor Grilling department and had selected a pair of barbecue tongs and was using them to probe deeper, in a feeble attempt to find her payment method.

Hours later, and with much assistance, PVC man was finished, and lo and behold, the screen asked me for my preferred language. I thought of selecting Spanish just to piss off the person behind me, but then I remembered the Golden Rule. I scanned my one 97-cent item. The screen returned with a dialog box that read, “Please show attendant your photo ID.” Why, I wondered, did I have to show a photo ID? Clearly, the computer thought I was buying Home Depot crack, so I looked up and tried to get the attention of Miss Bluetooth Nails.

The “attendant” at that time was then with her supervisor, and they were sharing a dessert.

By luck, I saw another open station and rushed over to it. The “attendant” reached her station and was dabbing her lips with her Home Depot apron and screamed at me, “Sir, you just had to show ID because you were buying paint!” But she didn’t bother looking at my driver’s license, because I looked old enough to be her grandfather. I returned to Station B, scanned my credit card and left.

Who knew that you had to have a passport to buy a 97-cent can of spray paint? I assume that it’s all because of the huffing movement going on. The only people I know who have been punished for huffing are people my age and up to 20 years younger. What good does a driver’s license do? Acknowledge that you’re old enough to huff and drive? He’s old enough to drive, so he’s old enough to kill millions of brain cells via inhaling.

I remembered the many nights as a teenager, hanging outside the Liquorama, hoping to find a really cool adult who would have no problem buying me a quart of Jose Gaspar rum for $3.99 (which didn’t even include the coupon), and I thought of a new retirement enterprise. I can stand outside of Home Depot in a trenchcoat, looking for children with blue goatees to whom I can sell spray paint at a 1900% markup. On a good day, I could do the same thing at Office Depot to sell keyboard-cleaning compressedair at a higher markup to the better groomed.

I got home at sunset, spray painted the frame I had bought at the thrift store, and I am much calmer now and have put the whole annoying incident behind me. That incident is just a fading memory. But since the can is now empty, it’s time to go scrub the paint off my face. No one would believe a 54-year-old with a jet-black goatee. Next time I'll buy silver. From a living, breathing cashier.

Creative Commons License by Bill Wiley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

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1 comment:

  1. Funny Interesting and way way cooler even than that hack Sedaris fellow.