When The Chips Are Down

HATE being sick. Hate it hate it hate it. Stuffed head foggy brane drippy nose and the aches and pains of fever are intense this time ’round. The cold snap this week doesn’t help a bit. Then Guido gets it. Tylenol

Day 3 I’m doing better so I bundle my aching lumpy body up and head to Walgrunt to promote a few OTC meds. I can’t take aspirin, so I opt for liver-taunting Tylenol, which, I discover, is on the shelf behind a locked glass barrier. The hell? I summon help and ask why the precaution.

I get the product, but I don’t get an answer. The disapproving look was a bonus, I suppose. Apparently EVERYbody knows why Walgrim treats Tylenol like a narcotic or a weapon, which means I’m just a smartass stirring up trouble. (For the record, I still don’t know. Did I miss a report?)

This nicely presages my trip to the cash register. I’m in line literally gagging because the customer behind me, a middle aged Latin woman with Popeye arms, exhales pure Camels (unfiltered) she must have swallowed by the pack seconds before entering the store. Plus being sick I’m somewhat neurologically sensitive to smells, noise, light, etc. I hate being sick. And I’m a guy. I hate being sensitive.

“GoodmorningwelcometowalgreenhowcanIhelpyou” slurs the tattooed teenager, grabbing my purchase and scanning while I’m still puzzling over what she mumbles before deciding it doesn’t matter anyway. The register makes an electronic noise and the credit card gizmo illuminates.

This is very difficult for me. I have no idea how things work, and have proved over 6 decades I am damn near non-educable. If I am not taken by hand and instructed slowly and carefully, step by step, how to do something — anything — I will screw it up, and almost certainly break whatever tool or device I’m using and/or hurt myself and anybody in the vicinity during the attempt. It takes me what others will understandably perceive as an outlandish interval to figure out which end of the credit card has to be inserted into which part of the machine. And I promise, when I finally get it right, it won’t work the first time anyway.

I only know how to do this at all because the one commodity for which I shop frequently is alcohol, and when Total Wine went digital, it was learn it or quit drinking. That’s Draconian, but really, no option at all. The first time, when I handed my card to the cashier, she handed it back with a smile, pointed at the contraption, and told me to “swipe my card.”

Do what?

“Your card. Swipe your card.”

Where I come from, “swipe” means “steal,” and it’s applied specifically to shoplifting. As kids, we talked about “swiping” grocery items or baseball cards from the drug store. I’m not swiping anything, dammit. Not now.

Working with crabby aged customers is all part of the job in the nation’s dicktip, so this cashier patiently guides through the process, as well as the entirely mysterious business where one signs one’s name on some kind of electronic pad and presses ACCEPT (5 – 6 times before it does) to generate a receipt. But after dozens of purchases, I master this. Until now.

As I puzzle through the process to determine which end of the card has to face which way and where the place on the machine is to (shudder) swipe my card, Lady Gaga asks me what sounds like, “Doyouhaveashitcard?”

My facial expression suggests to her I mishear her words.


She couldn’t possibly have said “shit card,” could she? I tell her apologetically I really have no idea what she’s asking me.

“A CHIP CARD,” she says, slowly and loudly, figuring either I’m deaf or don’t spicka da English (because in south Florida, ya know, speaking loudly and slowly is a cure for both). “DOES YOUR CARD HAVE A CHIP?”

I have no earthly clue what that is. None at all. I have never heard of this. My tooth has a chip, does that count? She takes the card from my hand, glances at it, then instead of “swiping” the bitch, she sticks it in the machine’s ass. The apparatus orgasms electronically, and the transaction approved. She hands me my bagged purchase with a traditional, “thankeweforshoppingWalmgrumshaveahealthysafeday.”

Thanks, love. I don’t get out much.

She laughs, not entirely kindly.

What irks me is the way it’s just sort of assumed that everybody knows this shit. What the hell is a chip card, and why, months and months later after hundreds of uses, does that become relevant? How am I supposed to know? 2-dollar-banknoteI read 2 papers daily (3 Sunday) and spend hours on-line reading email, news sites, scholarly articles, decidedly unscholarly articles, etc., and not once do I ever encounter anything about a chip card changing the way consumers pay at the register. How does everybody find out about this? And why does everybody get so damn cocky about it when they seamlessly adjust?

The only revenge I can imagine is next time paying with $2 bills and getting all indignant when they think I’m counterfeiting them, or using some other country’s currency. Hey, I can do sanctimony just fine.

PS Still don’t know the reasons behind the security precaution for the Tylenol.

This entry was posted in Gen. Snark, Maj. Snafu, Corp. Punishment, Shaken and Stirred. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to When The Chips Are Down

  1. Private Partz says:

    Have you mastered that complicated science of indoor plumbing yet? How about the hi-tech roll of toilet paper?

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