It was only a few items for a picnic. The rest of the check out lanes were backed up like I94 out of Chicago on rush hour. I spotted the FAST lanes. An innocent looking row of self-check out lanes where you do all the scanning and bagging yourself. Brilliant. I'd be out in no time. I even had my trusty 12 year old son there to assist me.
Alex and I began scanning items and it was only then that I realized I was checking out on HAL, the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey.My first item went through benignly. Then I made the mistake of trying to enter the PLU on the produce. You know, the little sticker that is supposed to be keyed to the price. Well, as soon as I entered it the whole machine lit up like a jackpot at a casino and a gnarly looking attendant came to fix it. He punched in a bunch of codes, gave us a nasty look and left without a word. We tried the peaches next. BIG mistake. Same response, same ugly attendant. I wondered why he didn't just stay there and check out my last few items - but that would mean it wasn't... the FAST lane.
We tried scanning and bagging faster to make the machine happy but it kept droning on at us in that non-human voice saying that there was "a foreign object in the bagging area". What foreign object? Was it peas? This was a grocery store for Pete's Sake how could peas be foreign. I began to look around for the zebra that passed in front of the scanner, or possibly a UFO - something I could accept as foreign.
Then the diabolical machine began a new type of torture. With each item I tried to scan it asked me to punch in "skip bagging" before I could move on. I'll bet you can guess what I really wanted to punch.
In a mere half an hour (!) we got through the last item and paid. As we turned with our one measley bag to walk away, a sadistic, mechanical voice behind us said,
"Thank you for using the Fast lane".