I believe self-checkout lanes to be a total scam, most likely set up by the coalition of union baggers to prove that not just anyone can do their job. They look appealing. I walk up, scanning the lanes, making a visual determination of the success of getting out before dark. I eye the lady with a cart piled high of things that will most likely require price checks. Critically assess the woman who wasn’t on top of things enough to get out of her jammie pants but sure has a handle on her coupons judging by the 3 ring binder and the look of fierce determination on her face and know instantly, intuitively, that she will want them all to double, requiring the involvement of management.
In a flash I am hit with the (false) feeling that I can do better than the teen scanning items in a sullen, minimum wage, minimum effort haze and I commit to the self-check lane. This is a mistake. It is always a mistake. Much in the way I think I can do aerobics or dance without ending up looking like a complete uncoordinated idiot, this is a mistake.
I am overly confident for the first several items. I scan and beep and master bending over the cart and swiping the item without looking. Then it hits me. The produce. On this particular visit I have a wild assortment brought on by too much time in Food and Wine and no lunch. Cilantro, persimmons, limes, daikon radish, lemongrass…the list goes on and no one, I mean NO ONE knows these produce codes. Being a compulsive bag tie-er (there seems to be no other way to spell that) I am now having to untie each produce bag and blindly search through wet leaves of stuff to locate the code.
The lady behind me who was also hit with the idea that she could do it faster herself, looks at me and wisely picks another lane. A guy walks up, witnesses the scene, raises his eyebrows and turns away. I am sweating with the pressure, the machine is telling me in loud voice to return item to belt. Item is on belt, but cilantro just doesn’t weigh much! I switch to item look up, and am struck by my childhood fear of the alphabet incurred by a cruel game played in first grade by a well-meaning teacher which left it’s mark (another story for a different time, and a strong drink).
Finally, I am down to my last item. jalapeños. 2 of them. I go to the E-J and scroll through. No Jalapeños to be found. I panic. jalapeño. I know I am spelling it right. Jalapeno. Crap. What if it is phonetic? Could it possibly be under H? Kinda sounds like an H. Maybe the J is silent? Does this mean it is under A? Peppers? Maybe under Peppers? This could be the answer. I find Peppers category and it doesn’t exist. I go for Serrano. I am now knowingly committing Pepper Identification Fraud. I do it in a furtive manner to elude the Pepper Fraud Police, wondering if maybe they are more expensive and will I still go to jail if I am only cheating myself or is the crime in the identification itself regardless of price?
I am done. I pay and bag my goods, my non-serrano jalapeños and exit the store. I longe for my studio where everything is easy and I am competent.