All hands on deck


MY View


Everyone is going to get an assignment.

If I have to become an expert at other people’s jobs, I’m going to need some assistance on my end too. My allergies got the best of me last week. I don’t know about you folks, but this has been a rough summer for me and my nose and my itchy eyes. I diverted to the nearest retail outlet and grabbed some medication to ease the symptoms. It was a fairly quick in and out affair, until I hit the checkout line. Of the 20 or so lanes with actual human beings working at them, one was staffed, and every woman within 15 miles with a baby was in it, with carts overflowing with diapers, formula and other necessities. They were waiting too long already to let one sneezy old guy to skip in front.

I hit the self-checkout. Simple, right? I had just one little box, so I figured I’d just scan and go. I scanned, and the machine didn’t respond with the correct sound. No price popped up on the screen. I scanned again, with the same result.

There was one person supervising her team of new employees – we used to be customers – so I beckoned her over.

“This doesn’t scan,” I informed her. “Did you hold it up to the scanner?” she asked, making me try a third time. I did. Nothing.

“Honey, you’re going to have to enter in the UPC code. It must not be reading the bar code,” she informed me.

She crossed the line on that one. I lack sufficient training to be running something hooked into the network of one of the nation’s largest retail chains.

“Here, I’ll show you,” she said, pressing random buttons and typing in a string of numbers.

Like in high school algebra, I intentionally didn’t pay attention. She knew that, and she asked me to try it myself. For a moment, I was in the back row in math class getting called on when the teacher knew I was slacking.

I hit a button or two like I knew what I was doing. “No,” she raised her voice. “Not that!”

I was waiting for the lights in the store to power down or all the registers to crash. But she showed me again. This time, when she got to the end, I quickly solved my problem and hit the pay now button before this lesson dragged on any further.

Not only now did I have an allergy attack going on, but I was on the verge of having to go back in to see if they had anything for my blood pressure. I followed the second lady from the first checkout line with the pyramid of diapers and baby food in her cart.

I decided since I had already blown a half hour on this trip, to also swing into a convenience store and grab a coffee.

The regular coffee pots were empty, but there was a machine where it brews your own cup. Not only am I now a checkout clerk, I’m apparently going to be a barista as well. I lined up my cup size and picked my brew. I hit the button, and the first burst through shot out onto my shirt. As the rest of my cup brewed, I looked around, and customers were making smoothies and ice cream in similar machines. I learned enough and headed straight to checkout.

I was about fourth in line, when a manager tried to steer me. “Our self-service lines are open,” he said.

I opted to wait for a human. And while waiting, I got thinking, and that’s always dangerous.

I’m going to use this business model at the newspaper. I’ll start doling out assignments soon. Someone is going to have to cover a city council meeting. Another reader will be tasked with a cross country meet or two. And delivery…. Who’s ready to hit the 30-or-so post offices we drop off at weekly.

If I have to do your job, I’m going to need help doing mine.

September 14, 2022