Follow the reluctant adventures in the life of a Welsh astrophysicist sent around the world for some reason, wherein I photograph potatoes and destroy galaxies in the name of science. And don't forget about my website, www.rhysy.net



Tuesday, 21 February 2017

My Self-Service Checkout Is Definitely A Racist


I had a revelation about the self-service checkout at the local supermarket today. I realised it's a big fat racist and doesn't like me.

Consider the behaviour of this deplorable contraption if I select English mode. "WELCOME !", it booms, with obviously insincere cordiality. "PLEASE SCAN YOUR FIRST ITEM !", it continues at a volume I can only assume was designed to frighten cats. Why they need a cat-scarer in a shopping centre is beyond me. On the other hand there aren't any cats around, so I guess it must be working.

Cowed into meek obedience by this biblical voice from the box, I immediately attempt to comply. But, woe ! I am too slow in finding the barcode. "PLEASE SCAN AN ITEM !" booms the box again in its strange tones of cordial indifference, like someone who's high on drugs and oblivious to the world around them. I hate unnecessary repetitive noises. The machine obviously knows this, because 1.79 seconds later it booms again, "PLEASE SCAN AN ITEM !". There shall be no delays in this supermarket. Or cats.

I endure this series of deceptively friendly orders and reach the end. The last thing left is a couple of chocolate muffins from the bakery. They sell these loose, so you have to tell the magic box what you're buying. The instant I hit the "bakery" button, the box booms yet again. Only this time the friendly/stoned English voice has been replaced by a stern older Czech lady. "NOW CHOOSE THE ITEM." she commands, admittedly at a volume that's more feline-friendly.

With all the speed I can muster I rush through the menus. But I am too slow ! The voice strikes again, "NOW CHOOSE THE ITEM." Wait, they've bloody altered the menu, haven't they ? Indeed they have. About once a fortnight all the little picture icons in each section are shuffled around. Why they do this is a mystery I have yet to solve. But they do. So I must continue to endure, "NOW CHOOSE THE ITEM" over and over and over again.

When I find the item, I'm instantly subjected to the booming instruction, "NOW CHOOSE THE NUMBER OF ITEMS." If I'm quick, I can get away with hearing this message only once. Slip up by more than 1.79 seconds though and I get it again. And woe betide me if I'm too slow in putting the items on the scale, because then I'm told - wait for it - "PLEASE PUT THE ITEM ON THE SCALE". Well where else did you think I was going to put it ? Jupiter ? You stupid box, how quickly do you think I can move ??

The worst is not over. Now I've bagged all my items I want to pay. Stoned English lady returns. "INSERT CASH, OR SELECT PAYMENT TYPE" she says. I do. Then I have to endure a choice of patronising instructions, once again at cat-deafening volume : "PLEASE INSERT COINS INTO THE COIN SLOT, AND NOTES INTO THE NOTE SLOT."

All together now : "The first rule of the tautology club is the first rule of the tautology club !"

Or more commonly, "PLEASE PUT THE CARD IN THE CARD READER, AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS". Not quite so bad except that whereas the cash mode shuts up as long as I keep feeding it money, the card mode is really, really determined to deafen the local cat population. It matters not how quickly I insert the card, or even if I do insert the card and start entering my PIN, "PLEASE PUT THE CARD IN THE CARD READER, AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS" booms continuously, echoing throughout the store in the sort of voice God probably used when giving Moses the Ten Commandments.

By this point my terror at the prospect of disobeying orders has long evaporated, replaced with a seething disgust at this inane contraption. "You fascist BASTARD !" I think to myself, "It's no wonder people bloody voted for Brexit with the likes of YOU in charge ! You damn Nazi pig, I'm gonna go Basil Fawlty on your shiny metal ass ! Think you can send ME to the gulag, do you ???!? WELL I'LL SHOW YOU THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS ! AAAAAAARRRGHHH !!!"

What I actually do is scowl menacingly and mutter, "I bloody AM inserting the card ! SHUT UP !" A bit too loudly as it happens, since the other customers start giving me funny looks.

At last the ordeal is over. But what happens if I don't select English ? If I can operate a radio telescope, a self-service till should be no problem, right ?

Right ! In Czech the infernal device is as good as gold. No welcome message telling me to scan an item. No obnoxious repeated instructions whenever I'm too slow. And no continuous messages about putting the bloody card in the bloody card reader that treat me like an idiot. Hardly any messages at all really, and such as there are almost whisper quiet. All you can hear is the sound of tumbleweed drifting across the open plains, or at least it would be if we were on the open plains and there weren't 200 other busy customers doing their shopping.

Conclusion ? The checkout machine treats all non-Czech speakers as idiotic morons who can't even do a simple task. We have to be told that coins go in the coin slot and notes go in the note slot AS OFTEN AND AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE. Heck, if the machine had arms it would surely also make outlandish, expressive hand gestures for good measure, the racist metal bastard.

Or I suppose I could learn Czech.

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