Thursday, May 28, 2009

Checked out

I had watched the guy in front of me, and he was a pro. He did the entire thing without speaking once. He barely made eye contact. I had to step it up, there was no half measures here.

I strode to my position and it began. Beep. Beep. Pack. Pack. Beep beep. Pack. Pack. On we went, almost flirting; she threw down the ham, I packed it faster than you could say swine flu. The sausages followed suit; thrown, bagged. Bring it on. But still we registered not a flicker of recognition of the other.

Soon the final item, the eggs (cleverly positioned by me), were coming down, and as I packed them away I knew, and I knew she knew too, we were coming to the hardest part of the ballet. Instinctively, before she had a chance to tell me the cost, I took my card from my wallet and glanced at the Chip & Pin screen. She hit her button to do whatever was necessary and I inserted the card, chipped & pinned, and withdrew, placing it back in my wallet. She took the receipt, handed it to me, I placed it in the bag and was about to turn, when... all went wrong. I don't know what happened but...I faltered, something kicked in, some latent shred of human interaction London hadn't managed to crush and destroy took over and from my mouth, before I could stop it, like vomit from the hopeless drunk, came the words 'Thanks very much!'

I turned before she could make eye contact, but the damage was done. I had broken the code. I had been cheery. I felt ashamed and knew she was chalking up another victory.

But I've learnt my lesson. Use the self service machines. No chance of human interaction then.

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