Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Look Ma! I'm A Rocket Scientist!

As one walks through life, it is a given one will hear many expressions. When its hot out someone will tell you its humidity. If you find yourself in a jam you may be identified as being up the creek without a paddle. One expression in particular, and the general focus of this essay, that I’ve heard in my life frequently is “it’s not rocket science”. This would be pointing out that something is not at all complex and the every day Joe can handle it. Seriously, we all must hear that ten times a year and it never gets old.

“Sure I can help you change your oil, its not rocket science.”
“Give me that damn controller, it’s not rocket science to program a DVR.”
“Hey help me with this booster engine on the shuttle, its not rocket science….oh wait a minute…”

Yes we sure kiss the asses…er…brains of rocket scientists frequently in our society don‘t we? Aside that aspect, what are we actually saying about many things in our society when we bring up that old saying? Well it isn’t rocket science (sorry) to find out we are calling things relatively easy. So with that expression being said so much by so many people about so many things, why is it I keep coming across dummies. I mean seriously, at least 5 times a day I stare into the gaping eyes of someone who has no clue. And that’s not even counting the times I stare into the mirror (see I can make fun of myself too). These people are everywhere and seem to be road kill on the information superhighway. Don’t get me wrong, if you choose to not embrace technology then by all means enjoy your log cabin and your hearth. Then again if that was your lifestyle…you wouldn’t be reading this unless someone printed it out for you. But I digress…the focus of this article is to point out the top three things in our society that perhaps are rocket science to many people…most unfortunately might I add.

Self Checkouts At The Grocery Store

As an alumni of past retail work, I can honestly say that I was one of the quickest cashiers of all time. In my prime, I could scan three customers to my colleague’s one. Yeah, tell me that don’t get all you ladies reading right now hot. Keep in mind though I have long since hung up my work vest/name tag and moved on to a more professional environment. However, the passion of the checkout game stays with me until this day. Whenever I go to a clerk, I think in the back of my head, “I can do this faster than you”. Yep, I have no life.

So you can only imagine my excitement when I discovered the self checkouts at the grocery store. Finally, a beacon of light had arrived for those wanting to pay for their items and control their destiny scan wise. A system that would weed out those not worthy to call themselves cashiers. Better yet, a system that would get you around those old ladies who rummage for change in their purse for twelve hours to pay for their items while you stand like a lump on a log with your melting pizza rolls and sweaty six pack of soda. Most importantly it was to be a system for cool and hip people to get in and get out of the grocery store quickly.

At first, the self checkout proved to be everything said in the above paragraph. Fast and savvy people were the only ones using it while the slow and computer challenged stayed with the human cashiers. Then word started to spread…sadly. Slowly but surely the incompetent began to invade the once trouble free zone in the supermarket. More and more you started to hear the kind recorded voice blaring “assistance is needed with your purchase” out of the self checkout. There were mass incidents of people staring blankly at the screen as if the computer had something to do with their f*ck ups. Then don’t forget the people who fall into the “how come the checkout won’t let me scan anymore, I only have 200 items that are falling over the edge of the bagging area” camp. Then there are the people who genuinely think those machines are there for their entertainment. Nope sorry , its all business and no one is allowed to play.

Indeed self checkouts have proven to stump a large percentage of the population. The big question is “why”? Pretty much everything has a barcode. You match point “A” (barcode) to point “B” (scanner) and it beeps. End of story. Even for stuff without the barcode they give you an easy search screen to find your item. If one is buying a pomegranate, all they have to do is type in the first three letters and they’ll see the picture of the shiny red fruit on the screen. Then, and I know this may prove tough for some people, one has to enter the quantity of the items they are buying. These are all entry level skills that somehow puzzle mass quantities of the general public.

So now when I venture out to the grocery store I hang my head low. The self checkouts are always packed three deep with mostly moronic people. Where am I in this mess you may ask? I’m standing with my pizza rolls and six pack of soda in the human cashier line…behind the old lady dishing out five dollars in loose change. You know, to save time.

Microwave Ovens

How many times has this happened to you? You’re sitting at work doing your thing when all of a sudden a distinct odor floats in from the break room. At first it is faint but then slowly it starts to grow stronger. Then you see smoky cloud drifting your way. You grasp your neck in panic mode thinking it is a toxic gas leaking from one of the building’s pipes. Grabbing an article of clothing, you cover your mouth and start to head for the exit. You alert people along the way causing mass panic. As you look up you see the cloud starting to grow above your head. You wonder if in fact you will ever see your friends and family outside of work again. Could this be the thing that stops you in your tracks? Has fate written you off to a demise involving your lungs being destroyed? When all hope is lost and you’re on your knees ready to repent you find out Melvin from the corner cubical has burned the popcorn again in the microwave.

The microwave oven seems to be an immense cause of false alarms in our society. I often wonder how many times the brave men and women of our fire departments had to run out because someone overheated their 5 minute meals by at least 10 minutes. I simply can not justify why this happens in our society. First off, the time on warming things up in a microwave is kind of universal. That is why it is listed on the packaging of a good percent of items you heat in a microwave. Even if the item isn’t as hot as you want it after the allotted time, put it in for a minute longer and wait for it.

This preludes to the next thing people constantly do wrong and that is walk away while their food is warming up. I don’t know how many bags of popcorn I have seen come out looking like smoking rabbit turds because someone overheated it. I just want to confront these people in the most rude way possible. All it takes is a few minutes to pop that bag of popcorn so don’t bother running to the restroom, they need to stick around…their urine isn’t going anywhere. Listen for the last pop or two and stop the microwave. It will save their coworkers the displeasure of gagging on the stench of burnt popcorn for the rest of the day.

Oh and pssssst….many microwaves have dummy proof settings nowadays that will allow one to heat things accordingly to the food type. Perhaps that’s too challenging for some to match the food they are heating up with the written words on the microwave.


Perhaps if there was one thing that started the self serve machinery explosion it’s this fine contraption. Back in the day one would have to fill out a slip and make sure they got their ass to the banker during the standard hours. If not, no beer or lap dances for you on Friday night at the local strip club sucka. However with this fine invention, we can acquire cash (if we happen to actually have it in the account) at any point in the day. All we need is our little plastic card, our pin number and its party time baby. Its almost like a slot machine…except you’re not winning anything…but you still smile when you see those twenties coming at you don‘t you?

However, many people in the general population just can’t seem to figure this out. It seemed to be ok for a bit but I’m noticing more and more incidents of puzzled behavior at the ATM. Perhaps it’s the one extra question people have to answer of what language they’d like. Or maybe it’s the brail on some machines the most puzzling I’ll admit are the drive up ones. (???) Regardless of what is causing it, there is a painful amount of people out there that just don’t get standard ATM operative procedures. Keep in mind this isn’t deposits with cash back or cash transfer procedures people are doing either. Rather, a simple insert your car, put in your pin, tell the machine how much you want and walk away.

It seems I’m always behind the person having issues. First off they never seem to have their ATM card ready. Yet, they take up a block of space in front of the ATM while they rummage through their belongings trying to find their card. After said person spends 5 minutes struggling past the sunglass case, bottle of water, numerous receipts, small pack of tissues, crumpled up dollar bills and the three ring circus to find their wallet in their purse they proceed to their next level of annoyance. That would be the finger fidgeting fun of pulling out 100 or so cards out of their wallet until they find their ATM card. It usually seems to be the last one they find too. Can’t these people have their sh*t ready before hand? Is that honestly asking a bit too much?

Finally said person above becomes the honorary operator of the ATM. After staring for a minute trying to figure out the right way to insert their card, the fun really begins. Extending their pointer finger like they are about to touch a sharp object, they slowly begin to type their 4 digit password. After this, they carefully examine the on screen instructions as if they are reading the climax of a murder mystery novel. Once the machine finally issues the cash, they look around to find where the cash is as if it were an Easter egg. So, after what seems like half your life has gone by, they pack up their cash remaining in front of the ATM.

Keep in mind, this is one of the easier situations I find myself in lately with ATMs. Forbid you’re ever like me and end up behind the person who you’d swear is trying to hack the bank’s mainframe computer from the ATM. These are the people who will have their cards spit back at them for whatever incoherence they have by the machine. However, they persist to put the card back into the machine like it will matter the second, third or fourth time around. When the machine keeps rejecting their card I honestly think its saying, “are you that f*cking stupid”. Bottom line, acquiring twenty bucks shouldn’t be like acquiring the Golden Fleece.

In closing, I often wonder if so many in our society are ready for such easy access things as listed above. Perhaps one should have to take a test before using these things. Or maybe a few years of shock therapy will help those who can’t man these fine machines. Either way, the basic principal is if someone doesn’t know how to use something properly then they should put forth a better effort to learn it. That and they shouldn’t get mad if a person like me is around huffing and puffing because they’re taking a few minutes longer to get things right. If you seriously compiled the time you wasted on another’s stupidity it would be staggering. I think time should be better spent. I say take your money out of the ATM, pay for your pizza rolls at the self checkout and heat them up properly in the microwave when you get home. If you have that figured out then apparently you can do rocket science on a high level.

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