The self-checkout line at the supermarket is a wonderful tool for anyone with a need to save time, increase efficiency and enjoy the delights of public humiliation.
How hard could it be? That was what I thought when I saw it last week. The correct answer would be: Much harder than you think.
The help screen announced that the process of checking out was as simple as 1. Scan 2. Pay 3. Go. But small, in-between steps, such as What The Hell Did I Just Press, or Why Are You Beeping, and Dear God Why Are You Beeping must have been left out.
I was defeated by a pack of brinjals.
The computer asked for its weight, and there was none on the sticker. This is a software flaw, because if the computer knows it is a brinjal, shouldn't it know the weight? The range of possible brinjal sizes is not huge. There is no such thing as a brinjal made for a doll's house, or one for an elephant dinner.
Only a few customers had dared try the automated line, and I saw why. Failing to complete the procedure means making a walk of shame past the row of people at the cashier's point, to join the back of the line, where I hoped to see someone else fail at self-checkout so as to move the focus away from me.
The system was obviously made for products other than purple vegetables, but no one told me. I like to think I am good with computers but once again I have misjudged my level of competence.
Overestimating my intelligence is an issue I grapple with daily, say, when I browse an issue of The Economist magazine in the hope that maybe this time, I will get what it is saying. The only thing I seem to glean from it is that it is written in a kind of English.