I stared at the self-service till in the supermarket, and it stared back at me. I braced myself and pressed the start button. Bagels – check. The satisfying beep told me I’d successfully united the barcode and the scanner on first go – result! Bread – check. Surely a record? But I didn’t reckon on the bananas…
I scanned the sticker and put the bananas down in the bag-packing area. However the till was having none off it. “Put the bananas on the scale” it said, and I did, but no luck. I tried again, and was told to ask for assistance. So I went to the next till and scanned again. Beep. All good. But no, not good. The same message to put the bananas on the scale, the same suggestion to ask for assistance. I gave in and asked the nice man who stamps the carpark tickets and rescues hapless shoppers from the self-service tills. “Oh listen,” he said, as he entered his store login, “The bananas are causing mayhem today.”
It made me smile. I couldn’t help picturing the bananas huddling together in their boxes, hatching plans to wreak havoc. To revolt. To resist being purchased. To stand up for their rights. Mayhem-causing bananas. Technology-defeating bananas.
And that’s the thing about technology – the thing I think about every time I use the self-service tills in the supermarket (along with thinking “why do I do this to myself?”) – technology is brilliant until there’s a glitch, then everything falls apart.
Like the time my husband and I were travelling home from Lisbon – we couldn’t print our boarding passes in the hotel, but we had them on my phone, so all good.
Only it wasn’t all good. At the top of the queue, I held out my phone to the lady with the scanner, but there was no satisfying beep. She enlarged the boarding pass on my phone, but it still didn’t work. She shrugged, and turned to the next passenger. Not her problem. Definitely our problem. I tapped her on the shoulder and after a bit of begging, she sighed heavily and tried again. I made the image bigger and smaller until finally the scanner beeped, and we were through, promising ourselves we’d never travel without printed boarding cards again.
We found ourselves in another glitchy situation in Italy two years ago – we were driving back from Siena, and the power was gone in the Sat Nav, but the charger in the rental car didn’t work. No problem – we had my phone, we’d use Google Maps. Only my phone wouldn’t connect to the internet. So there we were, lost on an Italian motorway, with three tired, cranky kids in the back, and no idea how to get back to the campsite. What did people do in the past, we wondered? Used paper maps of course. But we didn’t have paper maps because we had technology. Until we didn’t. Anyway, we managed to follow signs and use limited instincts to get ourselves home only two hours later than expected, vowing we’d never travel without physical maps again.
And it’s not just the big stranded-abroad moments – every time my phone runs out of power when I’m supposed to meet someone, I wonder why we didn’t make a more definite plan -instead of relying on technology to communicate on the go. I have a printer that orders its own ink, only I’ve failed to link something in the set-up, and so the ink never arrives. Technology is amazing, and I’d never go back, but when I rely on it too much, I’m left stranded when it lets me down – no backup plan, no paper map.
So I’m printing my documents and buying a power bank and putting a proper map in the car. And the next time I go to the supermarket, I’m going to the till with an actual person in charge. Let’s see the bananas try to cause mayhem then.