No Thanks, Mr. Roboto

22 Dec

The real enemy.

There is so much injustice and inequity in the world.  War, famine, poverty, genocide.  The richest zero percent of people control eighty five zillion percent of the wealth, or an equally upsetting statistic.  During the holidays, a time of opulence and excess for many in this country, we should focus on these issues more than ever.  But I haven’t been.  Because there is something far less sinister that has been consuming far more of my rage-attention: Self check-out lines at the grocery store.

Here’s my beef.  Lots of dummies routinely gripe about the influx of immigrants looking to slip into our country and take our jobs under the cover of darkness without our ever knowing.  But it’s happening right now!  Robots are taking our jobs!  Under the guise of convenience!  And we are thanking them for it!  This is nothing new.  Since the industrial revolution, machines have siphoned off work from the human labor force.  Factories replaced piecework and made skilled labor less of a commodity.  But never before have robots been so brazenly inserted into the public sector with such little fanfare or hullabaloo or hubbub or commotion or any other synonym.

If you have the same number of lanes and eliminate four human-manned stations, that’s potentially four less cashiers and four less baggers.  That’s eight jobs.  Let’s say that they would only be employed during peak shopping hours (we’ll say there are two of those a day…I’m not doing research).  That’s ten hours per person per week.  Eighty hours a week.  That’s more than 4000 hours over a year.  I don’t know what that means.  But that is a lot of hours over a year.  There’s a song about it in the musical Rent.  Check it out sometime, if you want to know what people thought about AIDS fifteen years ago, or what high school drama kids think is cool still.

Point is: I have never seen Terminator III: Rise of the Machines.  But I assume there was something about machines taking control from humans.  I have also never seen I, Robot, but I assume if it was worth it then people would have told me to see it.  But with all of our robot fear in movies, we are surprisingly complacent when push comes to shove.  We see only the good in robots, never the bad, like an abused housewife.

Here is one good thing: Lots of high school kids work in grocery stores.  It’s an easy first job to get and maintain.  If they get fired, they will be out on the streets, and the price of drugs will plummet given all the competition.  So, there’s that.

Anyway, I’m about to propose the least popular protest of all time.  Next time you’re at a grocery store or pharmacy, and the glint of the self checkout beckons you like a siren song, ignore it.  Suck it up and wait in line.  Sure, you will inconvenience yourself and the people behind you. Probably also the actual cashier and bagger will be more stressed out as well. But you’ll be making a stand.  A stand that symbolizes a draconian fear of technology and a bizarre unawareness of the rest of the world’s problems.

Stand tall.  Stand together.  Stand in line.


PS. As far as I know, I am not an insane person.

2 Responses to “No Thanks, Mr. Roboto”

  1. Sam December 22, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    Hear, hear. I once wrote a terrible sketch about this same phenomenon.

    The other evil that I think merits mentioning, is that a lot of people check people out for a living (like me. Hi!) and when we get to the grocery store, the last thing we want to do is find more barcodes and fight with more computers.

    I support your protest 100%. The only people who should be using self-checkout are underaged kids trying to buy booze.

  2. SB December 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm #

    I do this!

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