my Luddite moment

Now, I am generally comfortable with new technology, and willing to adopt it readily if it improves the quality of my life in some way. My lifestyle doesn't require some kinds of technology currently available, and my budget can't support them without a real need, so I don't have internet access always on my body, I can't post to my blog from my phone, or some of the other things that I see people doing. They're cool, but just not really part of my life.

Then, there are the non-optional technologies -- those that are encouraged or even mandated by the various institutions I have to deal with occasionally. In 1989, I moved to a new city where the bank would charge you to make a deposit or withdrawal with a human teller, so I used my first ATM and adapted to it no problem. Electronic tickets for air travel, concerts, and so forth are an excellent development of the past few years. I've never had a problem, never had any doubts or irritations.

Well, one now non-optional technology that is really irritating: the automated check-out machine at The Home Depot. Today I had to go and pick up a few things, and none of the human-run checkout lanes were open -- only the 4-stall automated lane. There's a slack-jawed clerk supervising the auto lanes, because the badly designed machines don't work very well. I don't mind automated check out at the library (books easily lie flat on the machine and you can easily see where to place the bar code). Even at our grocery store (where it's still optional) the auto check out works decently, although weighing the produce can be a pain. But at Home Depot, the laser beam of the scanner is in the flatbed of the machine, not above the surface. So you can't see precisely where it's located, so you're forced to keep waving your item around, hoping it will scan. Inevitably, I'm buying small little parts in plastic bags, which are rumpled and the codes don't scan well. To reduce theft, these machines are weight sensitive -- if you scan a small item and put it in the shopping bag, it keeps telling you "place item in bag" because it can't sense it. Today, I was buying three identical furnace filters -- two scanned OK, but the third wouldn't. So I tried to rescan one of the first two -- and set off all kinds of warnings about "item removed from bag area." I had to get the clerk to help me, and she couldn't scan it either. Then typing in the code didn't work. This went on and on and on.

Now, I love technology when it works. But this was really frustrating -- not only because I wanted to pay for my three items and get out of there, but because there were people lined up behind me watching me. I don't want to be judged on my lousy scan technique. I'm just buying some filters. (It was, of course, gratifying when the clerk couldn't scan the code either, so that my incompetence was at least as bad as hers.) I nearly just ditched my things and walked out of there. And I rarely get that frustrated.

I'm young(ish, anway), I'm techno-friendly, & I speak English. Today I felt like a confused old fart visiting a foreign land. How do the real oldsters manage in HD?