I think about what it would be like to drive a little horse cart to the general store in 1900. It is 6:30 on a May morning and the birds welcome me along the path we share to town. I loosely tie the leather straps to the post and give my “engine” half an apple for waiting patiently on me while I shop inside.
Two men playing checkers on the porch smile as I enter the door. I take out a paper and pencil list from my reticule, choosing potatoes, a little sugar and flour, and some oyster crackers for soup. As wooden floorboards creak under my feet, I browse the new fabrics on the shelf and wonder which color would make a nice shirtwaist to wear to church. The storekeeper, not unlike Mr. Oleson, tells me bits of news as he totals my order in his head. I pay in cash and he gives me change.
Well, that was then.
This morning I decided to make an early trip to the grocery. It was 6:30 a.m. and the traffic wasn’t too bad. I followed my list pretty well, allowing for bargains I found in the toy aisle for Christmas boxes later on in the year.
Where was the friendly storekeeper? Not behind even one of the 15 cash registers fronted by quiet, still conveyor belts and unlit ID numbers. Self checkouts were the only option before 7:00.
I offered my store card to the glass counter.
“Scan your item and place it in the bag,” the voice pleasantly told me. I don’t know her name, but I believe she is a cousin of Barbara, our GPS lady, or Lucy, our friend’s GPS lady.
This worked for three items. I thought I was following directions and being courteous, especially since she hadn’t bantered over the news with me (but I did pick up a morning newspaper to buy, so that was a consolation). “See attendant,” she said. I didn’t see any.
Then I waved at a guy at the end of the computers, and he came over.
“These were BOGO,” I said, pleased I remembered the acronym for “buy one, get one.”
“It will show up at the end of the order,” he told me.
The UPC codes mostly scanned OK, including the fruit stickers.
But the lady kept telling me to place the item in the bag. The bags were full. There was no more room, and I still had half my order in the basket. Could I put the half I’d “processed” in the basket with the unprocessed items? Would an alarm go off? Would she yell at me?
I thought that if I’d had a smartphone extension rod, I could have made one of those vlogs that I haven’t seen but a friend recently told me about, and send it to Jimmy Fallon.
Four more waves to the computer guy and I was almost done. I had to have help with coupons; I guess the money I owed was more important to the lady than the cents off. I paid with a check, handing it to the CG, and loaded the rest of the things into my basket.
I thought I heard her say, as I wheeled out the door, “Take your receipt and your bags, and get the h— out of here!” But it was probably my imagination. I was checked out, and she was already helping someone else.