Wanderings – Lazy rivers and self-serve checkouts

I went on vacation recently. It was a brief trip, and the first time in three years that I’ve gone away. The last time I tried to go away, it was to complete the second half of my family’s planned trip to Prince Edward Island. That was shortened by the pandemic to a weekend away in Pembroke. Pembroke is no PEI – sorry Pembroke. Still, time away is time away and I was happy to have it.

This recent trip offered me many opportunities to relax – and unlike some vacations in the past – I tried to take advantage of each one of those opportunities. The first of those – driving.

I enjoy driving. I may drive a shoebox on four wheels, but give me a two lane road through the mountains and I am happy. Listening to music while looking at the great scenery as I drive is relaxing – almost inducing a Zen moment. Switch out the caravan for a two-seat English or German roadster and the scales would have tipped towards perfection.

When we had travelled through the mountains to our destination, the second opportunity taken was the lazy river. Except for when I try to disprove my age by going on more extreme amusement or water park rides with my near-adult aged children, the lazy river is for me. Floating along, while my inner tube is carried by the current round-and-round again, I lacked only one thing: a place to put my overpriced drink.

Another opportunity, which I had not planned for, was a much-needed nap. No, not while on the lazy river. I am not a nap person, but I now know the appeal of it. With this knowledge, I think I could become a nap person. A stop to wait for others to enjoy some ride I knew that was unwise for me to attempt, led to me relaxing – and drifting off. Maybe it was the effects of the river, or the drive. I dozed off on the lounge chair for a nice siesta. Hopefully my snoring wasn’t mistaken for some malfunctioning part of the ride.

The only mishap of the trip, was the return – namely a self serve checkout. I am a fan of these technological wonders. Preferring my things packed a certain way, I like self-serve checkouts. Many people avoid these. I don’t. I don’t like shopping and can’t stand waiting in an aisle to get something – especially if other people are there and cannot make up their minds. Pick the fettuccine or the rotini and move on! Stop clogging up the space for 10 minutes deciding what you want.

Self-serve Checkouts help me avoid a wait in a checkout line. I will gladly ring my purchases through the cash myself and leave before any other line advances. Except for book stores and hobby shops, I am an impatient shopper. Make a list, go in and get what you need, then get out. DIY checkouts help me do that. Or at least they did, until this time. Needing groceries en route home from our trip, I encountered the machine from hell.

Once I scanned my items, the checkout terminal asked how many store bags I used? Zero – I bring my own because I have been trained/conditioned/programmed well. Was I sure? Yes, I am sure I brought my own.

The machine asked if I wanted to round up my purchase to donate to a charity? No, thank you. Do I want to donate to another charity of the store’s choosing? No thank you again.

The machine asked again if I was sure I want to buy these items. I wanted to say “No, I go around using these machines for fun.” Fearing that my sarcasm would be ill-received and provoke an outburst from our robot overlords, I pressed the yes button again. The checkout next asked if I had a rewards card? Yes. But what I’d like to know is can I get more discounts if I use all my rewards cards? I should. I have 20 different cards. Can’t all these stores get together and have one reward card for all them? Better still, forget the loyalty programs and cut your prices so shoppers don’t have to pay to operate these programs.

Finally, the machine asked what kind of payment method I wanted to use. Arm and leg were not available options. What seemed like 2,000 different questions and prompts was over – except for the next three to confirm account and pin. I thought these machines are suppose to be easy to use. Scan, bag, pay, and go. Using a self-serve checkout is akin to a modern-day Spanish Inquisition just to buy a box of pasta and some tomatoes. Tell me again how technology is suppose to improve lives?

One positive out of my shopping inquisition is a reinforcement that I need to do something people around me have already said – take more vacations. Or at least, take more naps.

Originally published in the August 23, 2023 print edition of The Morrisburg Leader.