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Unexpected Item
Unexpected Item

Unexpected Item

apemannAndy (Formerly Apemann)

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

God, how I detested that smug, patronising electronically-generated female voice! She always sounded so goddamn sure of herself, as if there was no way she could be wrong. Ha!

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

she repeated herself, using that same, flat inflectionless tone that grated on my nerves like fingernails being drawn down a chalkboard! Cocky bitch! Of course, there’s nothing in the bagging area that shouldn’t be there, that’s what’s so annoying. I mean, I scan, I put the item in my bag and reach for the next item. But she’s having none of it.

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

she insists, in spite of there being no evidence whatsoever to support her claim. I placed six items into my basket as I wandered the aisles of the store. I had already scanned two of them through the self-service checkout and was about to scan the third when she – the Voice of the Machine – found something not to her liking.

I check again. Of course I do. The machine; the voice of the machine, seems to intimate that I, the thinking part of this relationship, am doing something wrong, possibly criminally so. I know I haven’t yet I feel so guilty! That voice, the unflappable certainty in those six words, makes me doubt my own eyes, let alone my own honesty. There is definitely nothing in my bagging area that should not be there.

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

Now I am getting pissed. People – other self-service shoppers who are managing their shopping without a hitch and without false accusations being levelled at them by an emotionless, electronic voice – are looking across at me as I try to hold my temper as well as my dignity. One woman shakes her head from side to side and I see her lips as she clearly says ‘tut-tut’ to herself. And then, of course, the self-service lane supervisor looks at me. Do I see an unspoken accusation in those narrowed eyes?

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

That bloody voice! I notice for the first time how uncomfortably loud it is, as though it has been set at a volume to deliberately attract attention, which makes sense from a security point of view. If you’re a shopper with nefarious deeds in mind it might well make you change your mind, but if like me, you are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, it stands as an unwarranted accusation and a source of intense embarrassment.

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

The supervisor – a woman of middle-aged years, short, steel-grey hair and of stocky build wearing a bright orange and blue combination that comprises the store’s standard uniform and which does nothing for her sartorially - looks across at me again. I see her come to some sort of conclusion and begin to make her slow, steady way towards me. I panic.

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

the damn Voice of the Machine intones for the umpteenth time.

"Fuck you!" I swear at the inanimate object as I grab the two scanned items and shove them back into my basket with the intention of taking my shopping to a manned checkout.

"Unexpected item in bagging area removed. Please continue."

the oh-so chirpy and friendly voice invites me. I stare, dumbfounded.

"These machines!" the supervisor laughs as she approaches me. "They do have their funny little ways!"

I give her a murderous look and turn away. I vow to never use the self-service lane ever again and to never show my face in that particular store ever again. Really!

As I turn away and join the back of a queue at one of the manned checkouts I hear those words again:

"Unexpected item in the bagging area."

I look across to the self-service lane and see a guy not dissimilar to me looking just as puzzled and just as guilty as I probably did a few minutes ago.

I smile.


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About The Author
Andy (Formerly Apemann)
About This Story
11 Apr, 2016
Read Time
3 mins
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