Technological Advances?

By Ernie Witham   |   May 9, 2019

In the past, before technology invaded every aspect of our lives, you sometimes you got a lot of “personality” at the check-out stand. 

“Well how are you today? My sciatica is acting up. Not easy standing here all day. My new daughter-in-law has a desk job. Makes more money in a week than I make in a month. Needs it, though, with all the booze she drinks. Uses black finger nail polish. Probably in a cult. My grandchildren if I ever get any will probably have pointed ears. Nice shirt. JC Penny? Great bargains. Buy all my bras there. Only place with my size. So, did you find everything you needed?”

“No no no!”

“Should I call the store manager for you? What it is you need?”

“The image of your bras to go away?”

“Funny. You should write humor.”

“I do.”

“Right. So, cash or check?”

Or how about when the gas station attendant used to come dashing out to put in gas, check your oil, wash your windshield and check your tire pressure. 

“Nice ride. Fifty-Seven? Kid who works for me is restoring an Edsel. Butt ugliest car ever made you ask me. Course he’s about as bright as the tail lamp on a ’64 Volkswagen Beetle if you get my meaning. So, whataya need today?”

“Two dollars regular, please.”

“Wow, one step closer to retirement in Tahiti.”

Now automation is here and the programmers knowing what we were used to tried to program in “personality,” but it’s not quite the same. Like at the pump-your-own gas station. “Insert card now. Remove quickly. Too fast. Reenter card now. Too slow. Reenter card. Is this a debit card? Put in number but shield yourself from criminals. This is not the greatest neighborhood. Of course, you don’t look like you have much money anyway. Haha.”

As an added feature, many pumps have monitors that blast you with “personal” ads, while you are pumping. “Special loan rates today at the local branch of Bank of Antarctica. Cool bank, check them out. Then maybe you wouldn’t have to put in the cheapest octane. Haha. Thirsty? We offer the mega-gulp sugar-plus-extra-caffeine purple passion slush drink for only two bucks. Goes great with pork rinds. You look like a pork rinds kinda guy. Haha. Replace nozzle when done.”

We have also been blessed with the self-checkout stand. “Please insert your card. Cannot read. Is there anyone with you that can help? A wife maybe? Scan any coupons now. Cannot read. Wife? Do you have our aisle-by-aisle location app? If not, your wife can download it at If you need help call our helpful hotline at one eight-hundred easy. Don’t call one nine-hundred easy or you will get a porn service. Haha. Please hit total.”

So, it was kind of refreshing to go to a “throw-back-day” at a winery in the Valley.

“Wow, it’s loud in here.”

The young lady blew a strand of hair out of her face. “Three weddings, today. Not exactly your nuance crowd. Wanted to know if we used local trees for our oak barrels.”

I handed her our “taste-free-wine-anytime” club card. She grabbed a yellow pad and pen. “Internet is down. Busiest day in weeks.”

I thought of all the times in life I used a fake ID and was escorted out of an establishment. I was going to make up a name for old time’s sake, but Pat signed us in. Someone ordered three bottles of wine. The server took out an old credit card slip and started writing stuff down. “You don’t even have the little machine?”

“Nope.” She took out her phone and used the calculator to add things up. “We’re going to have to enter all of this by hand once the Internet comes back. Probably be here ‘til midnight. Rosé to start?”

A group of fifteen stumbled out of a wine tour bus and headed our way. They were all holding cell phones and speaking a foreign language. She did a neck roll and started lining up glasses. “Great. The selfie crowd is here.”

“Wow! This is like the olden days! I don’t suppose you have time to complain about your brother-in-law or ask where I bought these cheap cargo shorts or anything?”

She poured us some wine. “That does not compute,” she said.


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