In a world in which it appears as if all things are moving at a greater pace due to technological progress, it seems as if one area of American Life moves slower with each passing day: the checkout line.
And, perversely, the reason why is....technology.
Tell me this hasn't happened to you, recently:
You're standing in a checkout line. There may be but one or two people ahead of you, but completing their transactions is taking an inordinate amount of time. Within a short while, the line you are standing on has doubled in length, and the first person on it is still struggling to get their debit or credit card to work: it will not swipe, or if it has a chip, they've inserted the wrong end, or -- the worst of all -- numbnuts doesn't realize that their account is empty.
The process is repeated until you -- finally -- get your turn.
Whatever the reason for the original delay, you find yourself standing in line for 10, 12, 15 minutes, because the assholes ahead of you refuse to do something that used to be a common thing: carry cash.
Carrying cash, they'll tell you, is inconvenient. For a start, you have to go to a bank and wait on line to get some, so using an electronic means of transferring funds from your account is a major convenience. Of course it is....to you.
Others will tell you that carrying cash makes them a target for thieves, and -- haha! fooled you! -- I don't carry any, so if you mug me I lose nothing! Unless your lack of money angers this hypothetical criminal and he shoots you in the head before making off with your iPhone and credit card.
Then there's the self-righteous fucktard who brags that by using an electronic means of transferring his funds instead of carrying cash means he avoids ATM fees the eeeeeevil banks charge him for...convenience...and he's proud not to fund some CEO's Brand Spankin' New Yacht Every Year account.
But here's the rub: in partaking of a convenience -- or semi-moral stand -- for themselves, they are inconveniencing everyone else. For completing a transaction this way, despite all the technology involved, seems to be taking longer than ever.
There's a variety of reasons for this:
The machinery is decrepit. Usually, this happens from sheer overuse.
The communications are terrible. This is caused by increased traffic on financial communications networks, as every swingin' dick and his adenoidal, fat-ass, Tramp-stamped girlfriend in flip flops uses plastic.
The security protocols banks and other financial institutions are using are getting more complex to prevent cyber crime and are adding time to the process of completing the transaction. Most of this is invisible to us (except for the dreaded "type your PIN number here", and then discovering that Asshole doesn't actually KNOW her PIN number).
People are retarded: they swipe when they should insert, insert when they should swipe, or often don't know to do either, which requires the clerk to explain it to them. It's like watching baboons groom one another.
Cards get worn out from repeated swiping/inserting, or there's fingerprints all over the strip that interfere with the readers.
And, naturally, the worst offenders are the ones who decide that although they don't need to carry cash because of all this wonderful technological whizzbangery, that, dammit, they DO need cash, TODAY, and then spend an extra couple of minutes requesting that cash from the clerk (to be taken directly out of the account, natch) that results in another problem: clerks are running out of cash in their registers and must stand around waiting for their cash drawers to be replenished.
And the worst part? There's usually an ATM machine right next to the register.
This happens to me on a daily basis, lately. I need one or two items, I can get in and out of the store in under 3 minutes, if all goes as planned, but I invariably have to wait on line behind three or four dickheads who slow everything up using a means of commerce which was designed and intended to speed things up.
Oh, Irony, thou art the cruelest fucking cunt!
Don't get me started on what happens when "the machines are down", and all commerce comes to a complete fucking halt.
The beast-laid plans, and all that...
Normally, I would cheer a technological solution to an age-old problem, but it's starting to get ridiculous and time-consuming. Purchases that used to be made within a few minutes are now becoming an odyssey of stand-around-and-wait or torment; waiting for cash drawers to be refilled, having to take change in inconvenient forms because the cash drawer is empty, or standing behind some Cellulite Queen with poor hygiene and three filthy, nose-picking, sneezing-everywhere offspring in tow as she wrestles with the relatively simple dexterity drill of swiping or inserting something into a ready-made slot or hole, and then watching the technology or the user either fail spectacularly or waste more time than the "convenience" is worth.
Naturally, because the Overlord is familiar with most forms of cyber crime (I'm an old-time IT guy, by trade. Incidentally, this new Internet of Things phase we're entering is more frightening -- and easier to hack or abuse -- than the old shit), I view things like debit and credit cards or that arrangement where you slap your phone up against another device with distaste, mostly because I'm aware of how much easier it is to steal from you this way. After all, these cards are radiating radio signals (the RFID chip), or using WiFi, for example.
I don't even need to be in proximity to steal your money, if I really wanted to.
Which is why cash still has some virtues, and is, in fact, more convenient and secure than these newfangled electronic doohickeys.
For a start, cash doesn't require a battery or electric supply.
Cash is accepted everywhere. No worries about whether this or that place accepts Amex or Discover.
No worries about RFID readers and PIN stealers.
No PIN numbers to forget or remember (two days ago, I saw a young lady open a file on her smartphone that contained all her PIN numbers for all of her cards. Had I wanted to rob her, I not only would have had her phone and wallet, but she would have done me the service of putting all of her PIN numbers in an accessible form for me to access, even going as far as to label the folder "PIN Numbers". What do you do when the battery is dead, Lady? People are truly stupid).
Now, some will say, "But, Master, it is difficult to get cash! One must go to this foreign place called a "bank", use an archaic device called "a pen" to fill in a form, make eye contact with another human being, perhaps even speak to one!, and then carry around small sums of green paper which take up valuable space in my otherwise-empty wallet. Surely, this is too difficult?"
And my response would be:
"Listen to me, my Peons! Because you all walk around believing money exists on a piece of fucking plastic, the goddamned banks are empty. Why, it takes less time for me to get sums of cash -- even large sums of cash -- from the bank than it does for me to buy a pack of fucking Marlboros at Walgreen's, what with all the inserting and swiping and forgetting of PINs, waiting for the Internet to do it's connection thingy, and asking jackoff douchebag behind the counter for more cash in return than you've just expended on your purchase that your cheap and lazy behind won't pay an ATM fee to get five feet away."
The daily excursion to get the necessities of everyday life in the local stores -- whether it's groceries, cigarettes, a goddamned bagel or a fucking newspaper -- is being made a trial by ordeal by the cult of All Things Made Easy for Dickheads.
For it has been a truism throughout History that whenever you make things easy for the Dickhead, you complicate them severely for the Non-Dickhead, because the History of mankind has been one, gigantic clusterfuck of catering to the insanely stupid.
Mostly because they predominate, and capitalism goes where the money is.
As an experiment, I added up all the time I spent this week waiting in lines for simple purchases of less than $20. This has included the weekly grocery shopping, the daily Marlboros-and-a-Pepsi purchase, getting gas at the local BP, and one especially-trying time (watching a person of a certain socio-economic group at the lower end of the Bell Curve that shall remain nameless attempt to operate an automatic ordering kiosk is sort of like watching chimps attempt to work out the basic concepts of Quantum Mechanics. Either the chimp gets it by sheer accident, or, what is more likely, it gets frustrated, smashes the machine, and flings feces in all directions) at the local Burger King.
Two (2) hours.
That's two (2) whole hours of my life I will never get back and could have been putting to more productive use plotting genocide in one sector of the galaxy, expansion of the Empire, or taking a dump while reading Churchill's "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Volume III" (which your Overlord highly recommends. I meant reading the book, not necessarily taking a dump), which goes a long way towards explaining why chimps from the lower end of the Bell Curve have great difficulty swiping a piece of plastic in a slot pre-tooled for this exact purpose.
And 10 minutes of that was making a deposit and a withdrawal from the Bank. Which meant no one on line behind me ever had to wait for my transaction to take longer to complete than it took to dig the Suez Canal while the store keeps only one register open with a GED recipient operating it (which makes little sense. An automated checkout kiosk work faster, doesn't soil itself while on duty, and can make change. Those things, I love!).
Now, I don't know if this is a sign of Old Age (Get off my lawn!), impatience, or exasperation, or perhaps a mixture of the three, but for fuck's sake, I remember the days when buying a bottle of Pepto Bismol on an emergency basis (burritos obtained from a hole-in-the-wall-greasy-spoon-but-oh-so-fucking-good Mexican joint with extra salsa verde, and a possible side order of risk-of-unintended- salmonella will do that to you) didn't require a major investment of time, waiting forever on lines, or present such a wonderful example of how -- sometimes -- technology just might not be the answer to all problems.
Voices Inside My Head is a regular feature providing insights into the Superior Mental Process of Your Galactic Overlord.