Friday, August 24, 2007


Supermarkets are shit places. They really are. Don't get me wrong, if the accepted method of shopping was to dash in there and then have a minute to scoop whatever you could off the shelves before legging it off with whatever you could stuff in your trolley, I'd enjoy the experience considerably more. It would certainly make for more interesting suppers than the inevitable choice between spag bol/chicken pesto because I always seem to be faced with. But as it is, supermarket shopping is just a bit dull. Once you've searched through aisle after aisle of what is essentially the same product to find whichever happens to be cheapest, you then have to join the checkout queues. The custodians of which look like the zomibes other zombies shun for being a bit... off. Each one of them has a glazed, hungry look in their eyes that makes me nervous everytime I reach over to hand them my money.

So you can imagine my joy when I noticed that there was a new self-service checkout aisle. Being a fan of new gadgets and not wanting to have to deal with any nasty bites, I decided to give it a go. With the usual, brash cockiness that accompanies such a decision. How hard could it be? Ol' shit-for-brains can do it, I'll be alright. Well let me tell you that barcodes are absolute bastards. Once you've found the thing you have to scan it in. Sometimes the bastardcode will scan, sometimes it won't. After scanning the first item I was hooked. I felt like I was locked in a battle with the machine. Me on one side, trying to scan the bastardcode and hear that satisfactory 'beep', the machine on the other being a total cunt and refusing to make a squeek. Brains cells started collapsing, I felt consciousness ebbing away. Was this how Keanu Reeves felt just before he turned? Suddenly Wolfmother cut in on my iPod, shaking me back into reality. I paused for a moment to catch my breath. I never realised it could happen so easily. I started to feel sympathy for what could so easily have been my zombie brethren.

But that wasn't the most disturbing thing. That would have to go to the voice that came out of the machine. It was the kind of female robot voice that the big computers have in sci-fi movies. The computers that seem friendly and subservient until they suddenly flip. And then you're fighting for your life in a post-apocalytpic world where everyone wears funky leather clothes. It certainly removes any question of shoplifting from your mind. Robot voices have that cold, impersonal edge that suggests the machine would quite happily kill you and dispose of the body, no questions asked, if you tried to pocket that pack of chewing gum. It started to dawn on me that these weren't self-service machines. They were machine service machines. Training stations for the machines so that they can climb the corporate ladder and replace the zombie hordes. In thirty years supermarkets will be full of robots, all speaking in the same voice as they serve you, all doing the same actions over and over again with impeccable precision. And I'd be the miserable old git going on about how service was always so much better when you were served by a real person.

But I'd only say that because I'd be senile. On thinking about it, I'd prefer the friendly, helpful, reliable, possibly insane, service of a robot to a decomposing corpse that keeps dropping bits of itself around the place anyday. And a robot uprising would be easier to deal with than a zombie infestation. I've read books on the subjects. Unless... the zombie infection somehow hardwired the internal matrix core of the robot, turning it into... robozomie. Then God help us all.

Richard is currently seeking treatment for his robozombie paranoia.

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