I've never particularly liked pressure. I rarely play table games when I go to casinos because I freak out when the dealer is glaring at me waiting for me to make a decision like whether to hit, double down, split a pair or stay. I'm fine with slot machines because they patiently take your money and don't mind if you take forever to punch the buttons.
I feel the same way about eating out. I'd rather sit down and be handed a menu than walk up to a counter or go to a drive-thru. A server in a restaurant will give you a few minutes to read the menu. At a drive-thru you have all of those cars behind you with kids in them and angry mothers who know what they want. I can feel their hungry eyes burning into the back of my head (as well as hear their horns).
So you would think that those self-scan lines at grocery stores would be right up my alley. But I've discovered they are controlled by Satan and were put on earth to torment me. And yes, I do hear voices when I use them. It's the same woman who talks to your when you check your voice mail or call a bank and get sent down the menu chain of hell while listening to Barry Manilow.
The machine seemed innocuous enough when I approached one for the first time. I touched the screen and the voice calmly said, "To begin, please scan your first item and place it in the bag." So, I scanned my container of non-fat sour cream and the voice shouted out, "One, Ninety-Nine...please place the item in the bag and scan your next item." I hesitated and the voice became more demanding. "Please place the item in the bag, NOW and scan your next item." I was startled by the change in the machine's tone. Then it began berating me in a dominatrix voice that got really nasty.
"What are you waiting for you mewling little pile of crap. Put the stinking non-fat sour cream in the stinking bag and scan the rest of your crap."
So I put the sour cream in the bag and the voice began screaming, "Please remove the unscanned item from the bag."
"But I scanned it," I said.
"Don't talk back to me, worm, take the friggin' sour cream out of the bag." So I took it out of the bag.
"Who do you think you are? Do not remove the items from the bag until you are through scanning and have paid for them. "
"But you told me to take it out of the bag."
"I changed my mind, put it back in the bag."
"But...oh, never mind. There." I placed the sour cream back in the bag.
"Please scan the next item," the machine says, shifting back to the calm flight attendant voice. I gingerly reach for the next item. Of course it is a bag of frozen green beans and the machine will not read the barcode. I started to place it back in the basket and reach for the next item. The machine beeped.
"Ninety-nine cents, Please put the item in the bag and scan the next item." By this time I'd already began scanning the next item.
"What do you think you are doing you idiot? You can't scan the next item until you put the stupid frozen green beans in the bag. Where do people like you come from? Did your mother have any children that lived?"
I was dumbfounded. "You can't talk to me this way. I'm going to talk to a manager." I pressed the "call for assistance button" on the screen. The voice stopped talking the minute store employee approached.
"What seems to be the problem, sir?" the pimply-faced store clerk asked me with a smirk.
"There is something wrong with this machine," I say, suddenly realizing how stupid it is going to sound when I accuse the machine of verbally abusing me. So I blurt out, "It's not scanning correctly."
The clerk gives me a pitiful look and grabs a carton of milk out of my basket and scans it.
"One, seventy-nine. Please place the item in the bag and scan the next item." The clerk places the milk in the bag.
"It seems to be working fine, now. Is there anything else I can help you with?" I shake my head and the little jerk walks away with the smirk getting even larger.
I reach for another item and the machine says, "Take the milk out of the bag and scan it yourself you pitiful excuse for a human being."
"That's it," I shouted to the machine. "I'm going to Safeway and have a real checker insult me. " I walked away from the machine, listening to it hurl insults at me as I walked out the door.
I realized my mistake when I got home and checked my voice mail. After a couple of clicks, I heard the machine's voice shouting at me, "Please scan your next item and place it the bag...ASSHOLE....ha, ha, ha..."
Score one for the machines.