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Inventions for Guys, Part One: the Self-Check Line .:. kentbrewster.com

When I first discovered the self-check line at my local big-box orange-apron home-improvement store I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Finally somebody in retail management had caught a clue: there needs to be a separate check-out line for people who have a) one item or less, and b) a credit or ATM card out and ready to pay for it with. And, while I intend no disrespect to the portion of my female audience that fits this description, it's IOTCO--intuitively obvious to the casual observer--that darn near all of these people are, technically, guys.

The self-check line ranks right up there with the marvelous combination of Starbucks espresso with Red Hook stout--resulting in another Invention for Guys: caffeinated beer--in the late nineties: an idea that may have come to fruition just a tiny bit too early for its own good. With just a tiny bit of preparation and common courtesy, however, this innovation can be saved. In the pure spirit of public service, we now present some common-sense rules for dealing with the self-check line. If you can take a hard look at this list and honestly swear that you aren't breaking a single one of them, congratulations: you are probably a guy.

  1. Are You an Idiot?
    If so, please don't use the self-check line. A real human being will be happy to help you, right over there.
  2. Don't Even Think About Paying With Anything But Plastic.
    Cash, checks, coupons, food stamps, cowries, green stamps, and Krugerrands will be happily accepted by the bitterly smiling person over there in the human-powered checkout line. The machine to the right of the self-check scanner that purports to accept cash is a hollow shell, containing a midget with a foul sense of humor who will gleefully accept ten out of your eleven one-dollar bills and then grind the last one back at you over and over until you are lynched by the people in line behind you.
  3. The Approach.
    Even though your local retail establishment has filled the available space in between the self-check stands with seasonal merchandise and last-second impulse buys, there is one and only one line for everyone. If you see anybody who looks like he's waiting, get behind him. Don't try to game the system by queuing up behind the individual who looks like he's operating his self-check machine the fastest; this is Not Cool.
  4. Read the Freaking Screen, Stupid.
    Yes, the machine will talk to you. Talking is much, much slower than reading, unless you are an idiot. (If you're an idiot, please go back and read Rule One again.) News flash: you don't have to wait for the thing to complete its sentences. As soon as you can see the button on the screen, you can press the button and we can all get on with our lives.
  5. Um, Dood? You Have to Find the Bar Code.
    It looks so easy when the professionals do it, huh? They just boop their way right through that Winnebago-sized load of crap you're buying ... somehow they magically know which side of everything to wave in front of the scanner. This is because they've all been doing it for seven to twenty years; check their name tags if you don't believe me. These are the folks your parents warned you you'd become if you went to junior college. Deep inside they are angry, bitter, smiling, RSI-afflicted people with very strong unions backing them up, and they just hate the self-check line.
  6. Fresh Fruit and Other Produce is Right Out.
    The key to the self-check line's efficiency is that marvelous bar code scanner. Unless you're purchasing one of those newfangled Pringle's eggplants that has the bar code genetically tattooed on, you're going to have to go through the arduous process of looking the damn thing up in the store database. This involves peeeeeering at the touchscreen through your granny glasses, slooooowly locating the first three letters of the product you want to buy, and then deciding what kind of eggplant you are attempting to purchase.
  7. If You Discover That There's a Cheaper Eggplant Available and Attempt To Go Get It Now, You Will Be Lynched There's no going back for anything in the self-check line. It's all about fecal cohesion, kids: if you don't have your shit together, you don't belong in this line.
  8. The Bagging Area is for Loading and Unloading Only
    The flat spot next to the scanner with all those racks of bags is (unsurprisingly) the Bagging Area. The machine is inflexibly anal about how this works: you need to 1) scan your item and 2) put it down somewhere in the Bagging Area. Here it will be weighed, and if it doesn't match what's in the database, the machine will wig out. It will either say "Unexpected item in the bagging area!" or "Please place your item in the bagging area!" until you fix the error. Continuing to scan the next item until you are lynched by the people in line behind you is a common non-guy move; here is another case where you need to go back to Rule One.
  9. The Bag is Not the Bagging Area.
    Key Zen-like distinction here: you don't have to actually put that twelve-pack of toilet paper into a bag before continuing. Just put it into the bagging area, or (even better!) hit the Skip Bagging button and put it back in your cart. It's actually much easier to drop all your stuff into the bagging area while you're scanning it and do all the bagging at once afterwards, while your receipt is printing. (Don't even think about asking for paper bags at the self-check, by the way. Lynched. You will be lynched.)
  10. And Finally: No, Your Kids May Not Assist You!
    If you allow cute little Alexis to scan and/or bag your items, those of us in line behind will psychically cause your head to explode, just like in that movie Scanners. Alexis will then be inducted into the Checker's Union, where she will receive injections of growth-inhibiting hormones and spend the rest of her life trapped inside the phony cash machine, smiling bitterly while she grinds that last dollar bill back out to unsuspecting idiots like you.

Comments from before Disqus:

Mackerski .:. 2009-04-30 06:04:42
The unexpected item in the bagging area is, in my experience, always.... A bag!

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