Rushing Into Skynet – Why I Hate Self-Checkouts!

Okay, so the telephone rang tonight and a recorded voice informed me that they were recording this conversation…

Really?

I don’t know WHAT the conversation was about. I hung up before we even got that point in the game. I mean, what person in their right mind would sit there and listen to a recorded conversation that was recording your responses?

Of course, I was sitting there watching Netflix, and you could argue that meant that I was already listening to recorded dialogue – but that really isn’t the point, now is it?

Just a couple of weeks ago I walked into a local Superstore. I was heading for the walk-in clinic, suffering with a bad case of bronchitis. I had some time to kill and I thought that I might buy myself a little treat to help pass the time. Only none of the cash registers were open – none, except for the self-checkout machines. Two customers were standing there being guided patiently by two semi-almost-next-to-middle-management-staff who were eagerly working themselves out of a job.

“Well,” I said to myself. “Skynet is coming.”

Terminator

Did I buy anything?

Nope. Not me. I am no collaborator. I am not about to surrender myself to the dehumanizing digitized digestion of society.

You see, I’ve had experience with this sort of phenomenon, from a long time ago. Back about 25 to 30 years ago I worked in a furniture making factory over in Burnside. We made furniture for Ikea. That meant sawing up great sheets of particle board. The first cuts were made by handloading sheets onto a gigantic panel saw. It was a five man team, with two loaders, one chief, and two unloaders.

That’s five gainfully-employed laborers. Ten or fifteen if you count shift work.

Then, one day they built a great big computerized panel saw.

POW – that five man team was cut down to a two man team, just like that.

Just like that, three fellows were out on the sidewalk, looking for another job.

I think about those three guys, every time that I see one of those damn self-checkouts.

Heck, one of my very first jobs was retail. I worked twelve years at two different Canadian Tire stores, running the plumbing section, the hardware section, the warehouse, and for many years I was in charge of the Christmas section.

To this day I still cannot listen to an Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album without flinching.

So I don’t use self-checkout machines.

I don’t talk to robots who phone me up in the middle of my Netflix binge-watching.

In all honesty, I do use an ATM for simple withdrawals, but if I have any real banking to do, I prefer to talk to a teller.

It is just hard to get around this sort of creeping social infection.

Just a couple of weeks ago I walked up to a desk in the Halifax Public Library. Three people were standing behind the desk and I figured that one of them could help me check out my books. I knew that there was a check-out desk on the main floor, but I was on a higher floor and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.

“We don’t do check-out up here,” the lady at the desk told me. “But I’d be happy to show you how to take out your own book at the self-check-out machine.”

I did not want to be rude, so I let her show me.

Then I told her that I probably wasn’t ever going to bother using one of these machines.

“Why not?” she asked me, not rudely, just in a curious kind of a way.

“Well,” I said. “I look at one of those machines and I just see an unemployed librarian.”

“Oh,” she said. “Well, they wouldn’t fire me. I do other work besides checking out books.”

I swear, that’s what she told me.

I wished my memory was strong enough to have quoted this verse to her – but I will let her rip for the sake of the blog – and yes, I cheated and used Google-Fu to pull up this version.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me. 

Martin Niemöller

So, what do I say to Skynet?

Not today…

Self - Checkout

Yours in Storytelling,

Steve Vernon

 

 

 

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