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Especially when I go shopping with a five-pound toy poodle

I have a love/hate relationship with self-checkout machines. Somehow, I always, but always need help.

Does that mean I’ve thrown in the towel, madly waving a white flag, determined that I will never again approach one of those machines that look like a robot from Star Wars? A buddy to Artoo?

Not. I still try.

Cough mixtures

My favorite corner pharmacy had tightened its belt. Instead of three friendly checkout cashiers, there is one, but they installed two self-checkouts.

I’d named the self-help checkouts Walter and James. My first encounter with Walter did not end well.

My husband suffered from a horrendous cold, coughing and hacking for the first team, and I stopped for a remedy.

I bought a bottle of cough syrup. It was the only item in my basket, so I headed over to say hi to Walter.

I swiped the bar code on my cough mixture, my sole purchase for the day. Without apologizing, Walter told me –

Restricted item, authorization required

A specific ingredient was the problem. I needed help.

A friendly assistant trotted over and swiped her magic key. All was well. As a senior, it would appear I could buy cough syrup. The machine had failed to register the color of my hair.

But there was more to come.

Halloween candy

Sunday after church, I stopped in to buy Halloween candy. Buy one, get one free. What could possibly go wrong?

I swiped and swiped, and Walter said –

Help is on its way

The cashier was already standing behind me, knowing something would happen.

“What did I do now,” I asked.

“You messed with the bags.”

Am I not supposed to put anything in my cart even though the bags were slipping off the waiting area?


Next time I’ll let them slip to the floor and see what Walter will do. If he produces arms and leans over to pick them up, I‘m not returning to that pharmacy.

Some years ago, we had a fire truck roar up to our house without calling 911.


My husband burnt the toast, which set off the alarm in the fire station. Do you think he learned from that and moved the toaster? No, he said he wouldn’t burn the toast again.

But he did.

And I returned from walking the dogs to find the firetruck at our house. Again. Unasked help and much mirth on their side.

But seriously, what would we do without help?

Always and everywhere, give thanks for the fact that help is available.

Peanut goes shopping

This past summer, I rescued a five-pound toy poodle who goes with me wherever possible. Peanut, the poodle, has his baby pouch secured crisscross behind my back, and he sits upright on my chest in kangaroo fashion. Cutie patootie, little legs, and head peeking out of the pouch.

This day I was in a particular hurry. Only one cashier was working, and she had a long waiting line. I would help myself.

I only had five items, and after checking that each one had a clear bar code, I headed to rendezvous with James. I believe in spreading the love.

Right. It went well, and then it didn’t. James froze up and told me –

Help is on its way

I stared at the screen in disbelief. A little square man with something that looked like a bullet-proof vest around his chest stared back at me.

I swore quietly. These were infernal contraptions, and my relationship with them was a one-way ticket to a not-so-nice place. I reminded myself that these machines could be clumped with the demons in Romans 8:38–39 and that I was under attack.

It had to be a mistake. I tried swiping again. And again.

Help is on its way

Nope, James did not change his mind, and the little man with the bullet-proof-vest stayed put.

I checked my watch. I was going to be so late. The attendant arrives, smiles, and apologizes for the delay (I love people like that.) I smile, apologize for being a doofus, stand aside, and with niceties out of the way, she whips out her magic key and swipes my final item.

The little man with the bulletproof vest disappears. James happily accepts my payment. I’m reminded to pick up my shopping from the bagging area and do so. This time it had not made its way to the floor.

Shaking my head at the vagaries of self-checkout, the light bulb moment came as I stepped away from my Nemesis. Pooch in Pouch did not have a bar code. When I leaned over to remove my shopping from the main plate, Pooch in Pouch registered but had no code. James rightly did not recognize him as an item.

And that little man with the bulletproof vest was a mirror image of yours truly with my dog swinging from my shoulders.

Help is on the way