Marlowe Dobbe

I don’t hate life. Really, I don’t. I actively try to walk into every daily situation with a positive “can do” attitude. When faced with adversity, I don’t automatically go to a mental state where I think people are “out to get me.” I like to see every problem as an opportunity to learn, grow, and become a better, more productive human.

That said, self-checkout lanes at grocery stores make me want to burn and salt the earth.

Sure, everyone—except for dumb people—hates Donald Trump and his morally worthless administration. We collectively wish for their embarrassment, imprisonment, and ultimate destruction. But where are these calls for righteous justice when it comes to the inventors and enablers of grocery self-checkout lanes? Aren’t they also inherently evil? Aren’t they fully aware of the emotional and mental toll they take on humankind, and yet continue to gaslight customers into believing these automations improve our shopping experience?

I refuse to identify the grocery store that has caused me the most heartache—okay, fine, it’s QFC... but I’m only doing so because, when it comes to the exquisite Spanish Inquisition-style of torture they inflict upon their customers, there is no equal. What makes it worse is that their employees are the nicest goddamn people you will ever meet—making it that much more painful when theirs are the last friendly faces you see as you’re sucked into the bottomless pit of despair known as QFC’s self-checkout lanes.

On any given day—but usually the busiest times—my local QFC has one... mayyyyyybe two... actual humans working checkout, which results in lines that snake back to the frozen Stouffer’s. So, if you’re like me, in possession of anywhere from three to 12 items, the lure of self-checkout is omnipresent. It’s an abusive relationship—one that keeps pulling me back in, fruitlessly hoping, “Maybe it won’t be the thing that ruins my day this time.”

But it always is, isn’t it? Plopping my basket next to the computer screen, I’m beckoned to “start by scanning any item.” I scan a banana and am immediately rewarded with a stark screen that reads, “Contacting sales associate.” The saddest, most emotionally damaged employee in the world approaches, and silently punches buttons and swipes a card to reset the machine. Naturally this doesn’t work, and the employee heaves a sigh that comes deep from within her damaged, blackened soul and tries again. The banana is approved.

“If you have one, scan your shopper’s card now,” the machine beckons. NEVER, EVER DO THIS! I am a thrifty person by nature, so I adore shopper cards—but scanning it in a self-checkout lane is a frustrating one-way trip to “Contacting sales associate.”

The sales associate returns, eyes dead as night. Scans card, doesn’t work. Punches in number, doesn’t work. I can feel the rage coming off her in waves, which are bouncing into my own rage waves and sloshing all over the grocery store floor. “Just forget it,” I implore, “it’s not important.” “NO,” she barks, whipping her reddened face toward me. She’s stubborn. She refuses to be beaten by a machine that has already claimed victory and has moved on to destroy the lives of countless others. She scans my card again... and it works. God, please. Just get me out of here.

Two more items scan without incident, and then... “Please put item in bagging area.” Umm... I did. “Please put item in bagging area.” Umm... I did. “Please put item in bagging area.” GODDAMMIT I PUT THE GODDAMN ITEM IN THE GODDAMN BAGGING AREA! “Contacting sales associate.”

The sales associate... has so much hatred. For her job, for this fucking machine and, of course, me by extension. I hate me, too. And the machine, the store, and her as well. Thanks to QFC’s self-checkout lane, I now have a deep, impenetrable hatred for the entire universe. And after at least two more sales associate visits, when I am finally, FINALLY given my receipt and walk out of the store—bitterly fuming and refusing to EVER shop here again (until next week when I need a single egg for a batch of Mickey Mouse pancakes)—I wonder... what has happened to me?

I thought I was a good person who enjoyed and appreciated what life has given me. I really did. I’m not, though. I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. I have tumbled headlong into the darkest, blackest of emotional dimensions, where the destruction of everything I survey is my only goal. Is there anyone... anything that can help me now?

“Contacting sales associate.”