Thursday, November 20, 2014

Waiting for Cheese

Welcome to another installment in my sporadic “Things That Cheese Me Off” series. Today I’ll be ranting about one of my least favorite activities, waiting in line.

Lines do serve a purpose sometimes. I can use the time to plot out stories or decide what’s next on my schedule, or watch other people and make up stories about them. Or wonder why nobody ever wants to use the self-checkout registers. Those hardly ever have a line. Human nature, I guess. Even though the self-checkout would be faster, we still want another person to wait on us. Meanwhile, there’s a checkout person standing around and keeping an eye on the self-checkout scanners, in case anybody needs help. Instead of being paid to work, she’s being paid to stand and watch the customers do what used to be her job. Welcome to progress.

Usually, though, I hate lines. Most of my transactions can be accomplished in thirty seconds or less. In and out. Dream on. I’ve got all my ducks in a row, but there’s still that pesky mess called other people to deal with. See if any of these incidents seem familiar:

The other day I walked into the dollar store to check for Kleenex and a new notebook. The store was practically empty. I was there on a Tuesday afternoon. Who besides me is out and about on a Tuesday afternoon? For starters, the two people hogging the register when I went to check out. Nobody was standing at the register when I came in. They must have waited for me. Like that wasn’t bad enough, they were using their credit cards. This means time eaten up while they dig for the card, swipe the card, and try to sign their names on a tiny screen with a stylus that makes everybody’s signature look like a Kindergartener wrote it in crayon. I’m paying in cash, so all I have to do is hand over a fiver, pick up the change and I’m done. But first I have to wait in line behind the plastic users. I don’t know why stores even bother with express lanes any more. Any time you might have saved by having ten items or less gets eaten up with signing for the credit card.

And all the while that creepy girl guarding the self-checkout registers is standing there staring at you. This is progress?

I’m still paying bills by mail. I don’t trust having too many electronic fingers dipping into my checking account. (In my one experience with identity theft, I suspect the perpetrator was a laid-off employee of the credit card company. That was the only person who had access to my number.) However, my cable TV provider has an office—with actual human beings!—not far from where I live. Ditto for City Hall, which charges me for utilities. I usually pay these bills in person. Just stop by and drop off the check. On a good day, yeah. On a bad day there’s one other person standing at the payment window, and they’ve got a major problem. There’s only one payment window; cutbacks, y’know. That leaves me standing there for five to ten minutes or longer while the other customer works through his crisis. When my turn finally comes, I hand the clerk my bill and my check. All done. City Hall has a drop box I can use. The cable company used to have a drive-up window, but it’s closed. I don’t know if they still use the drop box. I should ask. With five to ten minutes on my hands, I’ve got plenty of time to work on my phraseology.

This gets even worse at the bank. I try to go in on off days, but that doesn’t always work. It doesn’t matter how many windows are open. There’s a customer at every single one, and they’re all doing a year’s worth of banking today, right when you walk in. And they don’t have their account number with them. And they want a hundred dollars’ worth of ones. So there I stand, leaning on the “Please Wait Here for Next Available Teller” sign, tapping my foot and seriously considering electronic banking. Except I don’t have home Internet yet. Better go stand in line at the cable company when I’m finished here.

And the grocery store! They’re the best. No matter which line you pick, it’s the slowest-moving, guaranteed. The grocery store is another place where nobody’s using the register until you go to check out. Then it’s all people with full carts stocking up for the month, when all you’ve got are cookies and cat food. And the lady right in front of you needs a price check. And the register tape just ran out and the cashier has to call for the manager because she’s never changed one before. And everybody’s using their credit cards. I’d go over to the self checkout, but I hate being stared at by Creepy Girl. At least the grocery store has magazines to flip through while you wait for the stock boy to run back and find out what tomatoes cost. I should go back to carrying a paperback in my purse. That’s how I used to get through unemployment lines, back before it went electronic.

Though electronic isn’t any better. First you have to go through the menu options, none of which are what you’re calling about. If you want to talk to a human being, good luck. You’re going to be on hold for awhile. You’re still waiting; you’re just doing it in the comfort of your own home now. When/if you do get a human being, odds are good it’ll be someone whose accent you can’t decipher. Isn’t technology wonderful?

These places should take a lesson from grocery stores and set magazine racks by the payment window so we’ll at least have something to read. Personally, I’m going to start carrying a notebook around and write a book while waiting in line. That’ll give Creepy Girl something to stare at. Win-win all around.


Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, lines. I used to stand in them. Now it's waiting on electronic glitches and the frustration of using ever-so-slow dialup. And if something goes wrong, calling and speaking with an actual human... this has varying results, some really good and helpful. Others snippy and nasty because you're not following the program, as in what the computer program says *is basically the word of god*.

With especially long lines I used to do positive-thinking and imaging experiments. Had some really good results. Peoples' moods changed for the better, and friendly conversations happened instead of the usual.

When I had to go to the DMV, I used to read romance novels while standing in line. I always had one in my bag back in those days.

Pat C. said...

I tried calling the Yahoo 800 number. The first time I was on for 45 minutes before I gave up. The second time was two hours, but I had my notebook and was writing while I waited. At least Yahoo's honest; they say right up front they may not get to your call. I've also noticed our state Unemployment Office no longer provides a street address. You either call them or log onto the web site. I'm surprised the cable TV company still lets you talk to a person.

Wasn't there a bank somewhere that experimented with eliminating tellers some years back?

Savanna Kougar said...

Interesting about Yahoo. At least, they are honest, I agree.

Wow, no actual street address. I guess it's all by phone line or wireless, as opposed to face-to-face human connection. Although, I guess if you use Skype, you see faces... whatever, I'd be all for this techno communication except for the 'bad seeds' running it at the top. Not the usual worker, of course.

I vaguely remember hearing about banks eliminating tellers... but that had to be about 12 years ago. Plus, they were doing all that data-gathering with the 'know your customer' crap program. In my area that didn't go over too well, and the banks backed off some. 'Course nowadays banks aren't letting some customers take their money out. Not without a fight and/or delays.