I’m slow to embrace new technology. I remember when the self-checkout line first appeared at my grocery store. Every time I went in I’d get a little closer to them, until one day I finally tried my luck. As I pushed the buttons on the screen that first time, I kept looking over my shoulder like I was stealing something. 

Now they’re about all I use. But I do have a protocol question.

Let’s say you’re waiting there and another shopper comes over, but instead of getting behind you he rolls his cart right up next to yours. 

You were definitely there before him - you know it, he knows it, God knows it. The question is, which I guess has yet to be addressed by any of the good people at my favorite store, is do you have to claim a side, the scanners on the left, or on the right, or, is it your right to take whichever of the four scanners opens up first? 

Well this was the dilemma KM found herself in one time, after she finished shopping and waited to check out. Another woman rolled up next to her and, as KM recounts, “she even had the nerve to push her cart slightly ahead of mine!” 

Not to be denied however, my sweet spouse leaned forward, poised like a jungle cat ready to pounce on her unsuspecting prey. If one opened on the left there would be no problem, as the rude interloper was claiming only the right side as her own.

KM watched as the customers to her right came closer and closer to the end. Almost there now, closer…closer, oh no! Not bananas! Closer again, closer… and, oh no! Not coupons!

As the first scanner on the right began those familiar words, “Please take your receipt,” KM began her move, and before the robot voice finished with “Thank you for shopping at Kroger,” she raced from her spot like Flo Jo, and got around and in front of her stunned rival before the poor outmatched woman could even react. 

KM had snuggled up safely next to the scanner, which was already saying “Welcome Kroger Customer,” before the other woman grasped what had just happened. 

But she quickly composed herself; and drawing on all of her middle-aged resources she reached deep inside and found that part of her more equipped for a confrontation such as this. She had, of course, once been a teenaged girl herself, and she still had some of that old venom left.

“What do you think you are doing?” said the defensive voice behind my wife, who was now busy looking for bar codes and wondering to herself how prices had gotten so high. 

“Excuse me?” KM said, feigning innocence.

“You cut in front of me,” the middle-age teen said.

“No, I was standing here waiting before you ever walked up.”

The woman’s face was now red from the anger that only death sport grocery shopping can bring on. Her cause lost, she struggled for one last memorable statement that would let her end this experience with some satisfaction. 

But all she could muster was, “YOU HAVE TO COMMIT TO A SIDE!”  

Mercifully, it ended there. 

KM turned back to her glass scanner; to the clean, faceless technology that waited on the humans it had come to replace. The technology that now does the same job she herself had once done at another store, back in 1974 when I had first laid eyes on her. Taking that into consideration, it’s not surprising that my wife won the race to the scanner that day. After all, it’s her territory.

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