In which I perform a self-check-out

I was elated when I discovered four self-checkout registers installed at the Key Food in my neighborhood.  They meant no more cringing as a bored kid in an apron bagged heavy produce on top of fragile tortilla chips.  I wouldn’t have to resist rolling my eyes as I insisted that I didn’t need a plastic shopping bag.  I wouldn’t even have to imagine curious expressions from the teen who put down her Sidekick just long enough to ring up my every growing weekly ration of flavored, carbonated bottled water.  I wouldn’t feel obligated to fake contrition when I showed up in sneakers and gym clothes—still sweating—to pick up a pint of mint-chocolate chip ice cream at 11:30 on a Thursday night.

I wouldn’t even have to remove my iPod headphone.

I am slightly chagrined to admit how much this all says about me.  How I would love to have my human essence captured elsewhere, in a light more flattering than the supermarket fluorescence.  In one of Shelley’s poems.  In the dress I wore to my Junior Prom, a dark green ballgown with pockets.  In the rope swing by the lake at Camp Jewell.  Even in another machine, perhaps in a centrifuge or in an all-in-one printer. 

But I’ve got the self-check-out machine, and I’ll take it, and I’ll laugh-groan and write about it.  It’s funny because it’s true. 

The self-checkout machine gives away so much about who and how I am.  How I can be irrationally patient.  About the way I itch to have control and the way I’m often wary, on guard until I’m certain I don’t need to be.  About my haughty environmentalism.  That I can be autonomous to the point of isolation.  That I’m proud, but that I’m weak.  How I am disciplined and how I indulge.

And, unexpectedly, just how chatty I can be, how I can’t resist the impulse to strike up a conversation.  Because as grateful as I am for the solitude provided in the self-checkout aisle, I never fail to make small talk with someone when I’m there, even if I never turn off my iPod.  While I’m bagging my own bottled water in my own shopping bag.