...why not people?
I asked myself that question -- again -- today as I stood on what was supposed to be an express checkout line in the local supermarket this afternoon. I say "supposed to be" because, if I have this concept down right, the idea is to move people quickly and efficiently through the checkout and payment process, thus making their shopping experience a much more enjoyable and/or efficient one.
However, when you're stuck behind an 80-year-old mutant, things don't always work out as planned.
I'm often accused of being a heartless bastard, which is only half right; I in fact do have a heart (they've showed it to me on x-rays, I assure you) , however, I tend to reserve feelings of sympathy, sentimentalism, and so forth, for those who are members of my inner circle (that is, family and friends), and perhaps dogs. Nothing deserves more love than a good dog.
If you don't happen to fall into any of those categories -- familial connection, trusty canine -- then you're shit out of luck when it comes to me. Unless, of course, the circumstances are unusual, i.e. like when I felt a great deal of sympathy for the victims of September 11th (myself included), or when I see those heart-breaking television shows revolving around the struggles of 4-yr-old brain cancer victims, then as far as I'm concerned, you can only find "Sympathy" between "Shit" and "Syphilis" in the dictionary. Otherwise, unless I have a use for you, an emotional or genetic attachment, or you're a victim of horrendous circumstances, you will not get one iota of charity from me. Not even as much as a kind thought.
If you also happen to be stupid, I might find myself calling for your immediate sterilization, and perhaps, execution. Planet Earth must be made safe from the likes of you.
Anyway, before I get into why this particular old person got my goat, you need to understand a few things up front: I'm, at the moment, trying to quit a 30-year, pack-a-day smoking habit. My patience is short. Secondly, I had just spent an hour before entering the market getting felt up by a flamboyantly gay tailor who couldn't help but make remarks about how well the suits I was just buying fit me, and how wonderful it was that the pants fit so well in the crotch and seat. I found that observation disturbing. Finally, it's a blistering day here in New York City -- easily above 90 -- I'm sweaty, I'm uncomfortable, and all I want to do is go home and sit in air-conditioned stupor in front of the television.
Having completed my little supermarket scavenger hunt for so few items, I thought I could speed my trip back home by hitting the shortest express lane line.Everything seemed to be going my way, until....
...I finally found out just why it was the shortest Express Lane line.
There in front of me was a troll-like little creature, perhaps 4' tall, crooked as a question mark, with a tricked-out walker, a disposition that could frighten a hungry Great White, and a voice that reminds one of that sound wood chippers make when they haven't been properly greased prior to stuffing a snarling raccoon in them. She is, I fear, older than dirt, but still younger than the Sun.
No worries, I thought: she has just as many, perhaps a couple fewer, items than I have. This should be quick and painless. Best laid plans of mice and men, and all that....
The supermarket uses an electronic scanning system. In this system, someone enters the price of every item in the store into a database along with a corresponding bar code number. This means that when the bar code scanner at the checkout counter reads that code, the computer that operates the register cross-references with the prices entered into the database. In this fashion, the price of every item can be known immediately, and the store knows that if 300 bars of Ivory soap pass over the scanners that day, all of them will have the same price, without exception. It's one of those labor-saving managerial-type wonders of modern technology, and it too, also speeds up the checkout process, because there is no bundle of baby fat and zits manually entering numbers into a mechanical cash register (remember those?) that requires it's operator to at least know how to count to 100.
A useful by-product of this system is that it obviates the need for customer and grocer to discuss or haggle over prices. Unless you're an 80-year-old mutant, in which case, despite the fact that the scanner is never, ever wrong (when the system works), you feel the need to argue the cost of every item being scanned, or worse, feel the need to lie through your teeth and tell the little bezitted bastard behind the counter that "the lady in the meat department said that price was wrong..." or "the fish guy told me the price was something else..."
She gave the cashier, and his floor supervisor, an argument over everything. A few pennies here, another dime there. I figured this was not going to be quick and easy, and tried to switch to another Express Lane line, but this solitary old hag had succeeded -- all by herself -- in backing every other Express Lane up Like six-to-eight shopper deep (all four of them!) by discouraging others from getting onto her line. I can only pray the stupidity stops, and I can get the hell out of dodge before my next birthday. but no.
Because she has now demanded a price check on every last item. And because she has drawn the attention of the Store Manager, he's willing to do it just to avoid having her have a stroke on his nice, clean floor. I figured, okay, it's only 8 or 9 items, have a little patience and hang in for another five minutes.
The price checks duly done, the old mutant finally reassured that the prices are, indeed, what they are supposed to be, and no, the lady in the butcher shop and the fish guy cannot arbitrarily make up their own prices, it's time for Old Pain in the Ass to pay up. One would think this would be an easy thing to accomplish, but no, you don't have my life and you aren't stuck behind this woman.
For she does not have a pocketbook. She does not carry one, she explains, because in her neighborhood, she's a target, Neither does she carry cash in her pockets, for much the same reason. Before she can pay for her groceries, she will need to get into her sock, where she keeps her money. This necessitates that she wheel her behind and walker over to a convenient bench close at hand and remove her shoe. I thought there was nothing on the world that could smell worse than Old Lady, that queer mixture of brown soap, mothballs and the quaint Depression-era tradition of bathing but once a week, but I was wrong. There are things that smell worse; you just have to wait for said Old Mutant to take her shoes off.
Having accomplished this, she does not, to my great surprise, remove actual cash from her footwear, but instead a State-issued electronic benefits card. We now have a new problem: she didn't just buy food. The order just scanned also included a bottle of floor cleaner, or somesuch, that she cannot buy with her food stamp card, such things being illegal. Besides, the card has a finite benefit per month and she's exceeded hers by 15 cents. Which she doesn't have. She now begins an argument over 15 lousy cents and how she needs her floor cleaner.
I fucking bailed. I'd had enough. I jumped to another Express Line, and even though that took another 10 minutes for the crowd, it was still easier than dealing with a now-hysterical welfare-recipient old bitch who apparently buys floor cleaner with food stamps everywhere else and never has this kind of problem (yeah, right!).
And this all brought back to me, one more time, the question of just why it is we're paying good money to keep such people -- old, stupid, apparently with no or limited personal means -- alive.
We recycle everything in this society -- paper, plastic, aluminum, motor oil, politicians -- why can't we recycle people who fall into certain categories? In this case, Ancient, Ward of the State, well-past the point in life where they are of any economic or practical use to anyone, including themselves, wandering around, using up vital resources -- taxpayer money, walkers, presumably hospital space and a rent-subsidized apartment for the elderly, my fucking time -- to no good purpose sorts of people.
There should be a law that unless you're able to support yourself past a certain age, or you have family that will do it for you, you should be marched off to a camp somewhere to have your organs harvested, or if that strikes too many people as an echo of Nazi Germany, then why not change the plan subtly: why not just implement a program where we take in illegal Mexicans and ship off our clueless elderly in return? If we're all going to have to learn Spanish anyway, why not make the effort worthwhile and get rid of the greediest generation of human beings ever known, i.e. The so-called Greatest Generation, so that we can all see a doctor when we need one at affordable prices, drive without fear of being rear-ended by some doofus who forgot his prescription windshield, and can get the fuck out of the supermarket before your ice cream melts?
Some people would call me some sort of monster for even suggesting such a thing, but consider this: these people (and soon their children will be in a similar position) have already lived far longer than anyone ever expected them to, and have collected far more in Social Security and Medicare benefits than anyone thought possible, or that they actually paid for. So far as I'm concerned, these people are a net economic drain and have been for at least two decades, this despite the fact that they are also the richest generation of retirees the world has ever known.
I refuse to continue to pay the freight for these people, or their soon-to-retire kids. Fuck 'em; I have my own future to protect, and the politicians they elected and keep re-electing -- with the help of their allies, the unions, the lazy, halt, lame and shiftless -- have spent my generation into $16 trillion in debt, and their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are too busy crying about how hard it is to get a job with a degree in Gender Studies or Environmentally Sensitive Archaeology to be of much use to anyone. There won't be Social Security and Medicare when it's my turn, there won't be a food stamp card with which to try to scam floor cleaner, because the two generations ahead of me will have stolen all the money and left me with the bill.
Remember the movie Soylent Green? Maybe we could put my supermarket Old Bat into a recipe somewhere and help solve the world's food crisis.She'd be far more useful, and far less annoying, if we fed her to a starving Afghan.