Self-Check out Lines

“Self” Check-Out Lines

I recently went into my favorite grocery store with children in tow. Now I use the term “children” carefully, because in all actuality they are teenagers, which does indeed make a world of difference! Teenagers strive to avoid embarrassment at all costs, are horribly opinionated and as a general rule… hate to go grocery shopping.

I go into the store with a list of a few things I forgot from the PREVIOUS grocery shopping excursion, and leave with a cart full of “Mom I gotta have this”. We proceed to the checkout line and the kid’s eyes widen with surprise and wonder. There – in the middle of the checkout lines are 3 registers that have large illuminated signs that say, “Self Check Out”.

“Mom! Scoot your cart over here! Let’s check out right here… I mean, how cool is THIS?”

Now… I have previously and very dubiously watched people in these check out lines before. They enter very calm, cool and collected. They exit with hair standing on end, their groceries tossed haphazardly into the cart and intentionally run over a nearby Customer Service Manager with their carts as they leave the store. I’ve seen “hearing” people lean into the computer monitor with their eyes squinted, their ears pressed against the little speaker and strain with every fiber of their “hearing” self to understand what to do next! Needless to say, entering the “Self Check Out” line was something I had never thought twice about. I do, after all, have a little sense!

“Ummmm… I don’t think so kids. I’ll never be able to hear what the dumb ol’ computer is sayin’, and I will hold up the lines just because I can’t make sense of what to do! Scoot on over to the next register with a person behind it. I can at least read their lips, and point to my little magnetic badge. (The one that says, “Please face me. I read lips”).

“Mom! Live a little!” (What? Like I’ve been dead or somethin’?) “Besides we can hear what it’s sayin’ and we’ll help ya out!”

Now I should have heeded that little niggling feeling of doubt that rose in my chest, but I filled my lungs with air and boldly swung the cart over to the “Self Check Out” line to “live a little”.

I start to unload the groceries onto the conveyor belt. The belt begins to move, but then it stops and MOVES BACKWARD bringing the groceries I had placed thereon back to me! I turn to my kids with a giant question mark. You know what I mean! Your eyebrows are raised and you tuck your hair behind your ear while unobtrusively turning your hearing aid up with one deft little practiced move. (Like turning your hearing aid up will help you figure out why the conveyor belt isn’t cooperating!)

“Ummm… what’s up? Why isn’t this working?” (Meaning: My blood pressure has just gone up 20 points and if ya don’t help get me outta this mess y’all got me into, I’m gonna KILL YOU!)

The kids are motioning me back and tell me to read the screen…. “Please scan Giant Eagle Preferred Customer Card”. (Oh. Ok. I don’t load up the conveyor belt first. I read the screen first. Got it! How hard can this be?)

I scan my card and the screen immediately changes … It says “Thank you. Giant Eagle Preferred Customer Card accepted!”

“Hey Mom! It said, “Thank you. Giant Eagle Prefer…”

“Yes, son. I can read. Thanks though”.

“Ya, but it has this computer voice like on Star Trek, and it…”

“Yes, son. Whatever. Let’s get thru this, hmmmm?”

Now the screen reads, “Begin scanning items”. I stand there a little blankly, while my kids begin taking a few items out of the cart and search for the bar code.

“Cool! Mom! Look at this! Watch, watch!” So I watch as they deftly scan the bar code on a few items, which is immediately priced and added to a “receipt” that is pictured on the left side of the screen. They place a few items on the conveyor belt and off the items go – in the right direction —- away from us.

(Hey! I can do this!) I get out the large water container under the cart, figuring I’ll save the kids from hefting it up on the scanner. (‘course, where I grew up we had “well” water that brought our water from over a 100 feet below the surface, sparkling clear and COLD into our house. Now that I’m livin’ in DC, you DON’T DRINK THE WATER. You gotta buy it! But that’s another story…)

I scan the water container and put it on the conveyor belt. The computer receipt changes and adds on the cost of the water. But immediately something goes wrong. The computer screen empties and flashes a giant red “X” across the screen that blinks, and blinks, and blinks. I do what any normal “in-over-her-head” mother would do. I point my finger at it and shout, “Stop!”

My daughter touches my elbow and says, “Mom it said to take the water to the end of the conveyor belt to the bagging section.” Sure enough the water I placed on the conveyor belt has stopped —- NOT moving in the right direction away from me.

“Well what’s the problem? It rang up right!”

“Well first of all,” she says with a slight exaggerated squeeze to my elbow, “you are s-h-o-u-t-i-n-g.” (She carefully enunciates this so that I am sure to understand the gravity of the situation. After all, you do not shout while in the company of your teenagers and bring attention to yourself!)

“It’s probably too heavy. Let’s just follow the directions and take it to the end.”

“What directions? “ I say, as I stab my finger towards the giant blinking red “X”.

But she has turned and picked the water up off the conveyor belt. The computer screen immediately changes to a picture of our receipt on the left, (this is good – almost normal), and a picture of a brown paper bag with a small flashing red “x” across the bag. Now I know this means something is still wrong. I am now a full inch taller —- you know the kind of growth that takes place when tension seeps up your spine and causes height to be added to your stature? THAT kind of growth.

My son says, “Mom it says to return items to the conveyor belt!”

“But it just told us to remove it and take it to the baggage area!” I am trying to deliberately and intentionally lower my voice, without much success. As a matter of fact I think I squeaked at this point.

My daughter has reached the baggage area and placed the water on the rubber mat at the end. Instantaneously, the computer screen again changes and now it appears as if all is normal. I turn to my son with a triumphant grin. He has his nose buried behind a magazine with feigned interest. Like he’s ever been a loyal “Good Housekeeping” reader…

So now with one problem solved and only a few people in line behind me waiting, I continue scanning my items with confidence. Ah! Produce. There obviously isn’t a bar code, but I’ve seen this done innumerable times. The little scan plate is also a scale. I put down the apples. The computer screen changes to a picture of the produce department.

There are 3 buttons. One says, “Produce”, one says “Deli”, and the other says “Organic”. I press “produce” which immediately changes the screen to another. It let’s me choose from vegetables, fruit, etc. (Hey! This is getting easier!) My daughter has taken a single but GIANT step away from me. My son has changed locations and is now about 40 feet away pretending interest in the signs by the “do-it-yourself” carpet cleaning machines.

I quickly scan the last item. The screen changes and it shows a cartoon hand putting a slip of paper into a slot by the register. Hmmm… I stand there stumped for a minute.
“Mom. It says to scan coupons now.” My daughter has returned to my side more to hurry me along than anything else as there are now 5 people in line behind me.

“Well I don’t have any coupons.” My daughter reaches across me and mashes the button that says, “FINISH and pay”. I give her a sheepish grin and turn to tell her thanks, but she has resumed her position of one GIANT step away from mom.

The screen has several buttons that obviously indicate how you would like to choose to pay for your groceries. I mash on “Debit” and the screen changes to a keypad. I cannot hear if any instructions are given….. there certainly aren’t any conveniently typed out for me on the screen. I ASSUME, that it wants me to enter my PIN number. I key in my number. Nothing. NOTHING. I key it in again a little harder. Nothing.

Ok. I hate to do it. I can’t stand doing this. I’m a little tense. Turning to my daughter, I sign, (pointing to computer) “wrong?” She refuses to take a GIANT step towards me to explain, and simply points towards my left. I turn and there, next to the computer screen, is a familiar back box with touch-keys and a place to swipe your card. I dig my card out of my pocket book and swipe it across the “swipe-er”. The computer screen flashes the same keypad I have been looking at, along with now…. 14 pairs of eyes staring at me. I again punch in my PIN number. When I say, “punch” in, I do mean that! At this point I PUNCH in my PIN number with exaggerated stabs of my index finger. Nothing. I again do what any normal mother has learned to do in situations like this. I point my finger at the computer and shout, “STOP!” The computer responds by adding a button to the bottom of the screen as if it has “heard” and “understood” my command. The button reads, “Ask For Customer Assistance”. I mash the button. A red light begins blinking at the top of the pole above my computer register. For some reason there is now NO ONE in line behind me.

A front-end manager quickly walks down the front and towards my register. My children have disappeared.

A young lady reaches my side and says, “Hello! May I help you?”

I point to my badge and say, “Hey. I’m hard of hearing and I’m afraid I missed something. I’m trying to key in my PIN number and the computer won’t accept it.”

She reads my little badge, and faces me and carefully enunciates, “Shhhhh…owww, mmmmeeeeee whhhhattttt youuuuu diddddddd” (Doncha hate it when they do that?) I turn and deftly punch in my PIN number again on the computer screen.

She hides a smile and points to my left. “Ma-am. Punnnch in yooouurr PINNNN nummmbeerr righttt heeerrreee.”

Oh. So the computer screen keypad has nothing to do with my PIN number? Well why doesn’t it SAY so. Or…maybe it did. With head held high, I punch in my PIN number on the BLACK box and then push my way to the cart in which my kids have kindly loaded all my bags. Although… they HAVE been haphazardly thrown in! I’m astonished to note my cart looks like all those carts belonging to the crazed customers who have left this same line before me. Success! It matters not that I am hearing impaired! I’m as normal as anyone else!

©2006 Hearing Loss Diary

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