There are so many people in M&S in Soho at lunch time that when you go to pay its like queueing up to get into a football stadium. You are corralled and herded into lines so you can pass the tills at maximum speed. I like it. Its efficient and works because us Brits love a good queue.But today it was different because before i knew it I wasn’t heading for a human I was heading towards the machines.
I am about to face the self scanners. I don’t want the machine, I want a human. I want a nice middle aged lady who takes my money with a smile. In fact I’ll take any type of human even a spotty teenager who is constantly yakking to her mate at the next till about how mashed they got last night. I don’t want to do it myself ,I want someone to do it for me. Its what I pay for. Next they’ll be getting me to make the sandwich myself.\r\n\r\nI’m not good with automated stuff. I have only just mastered chip and pin and still feel pleased with myself everytime the machine says “Pin OK”, looking round for affirmation, like my 6 month year old daughter, expecting the waitress or shopkeeper to give me a little clap for my efforts.\r\n\r\nAs we shuffle forward I can feel my heart speeding up and I start to freak out into a sweat. Its all so intimidating. All those seasoned scanners clutching their focaccias and hand baked crisps and shaking their heads at the people getting it wrong with the scanners, holding up the queue and eating into their precious lunch break. I don’t want to get it wrong.\r\n\r\nI don’t want to be sneared at by the pros. I don’t want the machine to scream at me “WARNING WARNING THERE IS A FOREIGN OBJECT IN THE BAGGING AREA”. I don’t want the flashing light and the buzzer sound “ACHTUNG ACHTUNG THIS MAN IS AN IDIOT”.\r\n\r\nAs the queue shuffles forward I can feel THE FEAR increasing. I clutch my crayfish sandwich and pasta salad tighter and tighter. I consider making a break for it. To make a burst for freedom and head for the human tills. But the queue is too tight and I don’t think I’d be able to battle through the hoards. I crane my neck to watch the people using the machine to try and pick up tips. But I am so nervous I’m not sure I can take it all in.\r\n\r\nThen suddenly I am next. After the man in front with his sesame bar and organic yoghurt, its me. I take a big breath and stride confidently up to the machine. “I am a man.” I whisper under my breath. “You are just a machine. I am your master.”\r\n\r\nI swipe my plastic container with the pasta under the green light and lo and behold there is a beep. I swell with pride. I place it to my right in the plastic bag. My sandwich gets the same confident sweep and the same reassuring beep and green light. Yes. I don’t appear to have any foreign objects in the bagging area. Get In! I press the big PAY button on the screen. I slide my ten pound note into the feeder. It swallows it first time. Woo Hoo. That feels good. There is slight panic when for a second I cant find my change. But before some smug bloke can say “Its below the scanner dummy” I find it. I have my change. I have my salad and sandwich. I still have my dignity. I walk all the way back the office with a spring in my step.