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Theatremonkey Fursprung Durch Technic

July 21, 2010

Mr P, being of a younger generation, is unable to remember when computers had 0.5k of memory and a cassette deck – thus making them stupider than a “Britain’s Got Talent” first round reject. He therefore finds it difficult to comprehend my own feeling that technology is not always the answer.

For example, the only reason I own a mobile phone is that telephone boxes are becoming extinct. My phone takes / makes calls and texts and nothing else. That suits me just fine. Otherwise, I regard computers as work tools only (admittedly because I stare at one every working day and don’t wish to look at one at night. Peter Stringfellow may feel the same about his cabaret entertainers, though I doubt it).

My point is that for me, a little technology goes a long way – and I only really enjoy that which has proven usefulness. My local Sainsbury’s installation of “Self Service” checkouts is an example rare and fine enough for me to blog here.

With the daytime technophobic shoppers relegated to their long lines at staffed checkouts, those comfortable with machines (and generally in a hurry anyway) enjoy a speedy and queue free redemption from the usual supermarket departure-hell wait.

 So far, the only drawback of “self service” that I’ve discovered is the rather bossy woman they’ve got ordering you to scan items and remove inappropriate things from your packing area. The alleged fact that the Soho branch has deleted this line (due to customer hysteria generated), suggests a remedy for this mild flaw. The Brits still like a little interaction and comedy – even without a harassed part-time worker pushing buttons and placing your eggs under your potatoes in the bag – so maybe the store could make an extra leap in the “retail as entertainment” department?

Replace that hassling voice with celebrities, and we might all have some fun. Imagine Chris Tarrant (Regis Philbin for US readers) asking, “Is that your final item?” or asking if you wish to “Phone a dietician” about your cream cake addiction.

Even better, there are 4 units lined up doing nothing if the technophobes avoid them. Imagine if each had the personality of an “X Factor” judge… and was programmed to bicker with the others… After being told by one that “your shopping today was acceptable, and that’s all” another could chip in with “don’t listen to him, you were great today, really owning those cornflakes.”

Of course, celebrities cost money, and could even intimidate those who are already nervous of the machines. So maybe “normal people” would be the approach. As you walk up to the device, it accuses you of cutting the line, then starts moaning about how long it has had to wait, then compares the wait to the one at the doctor’s last week… and, “wouldn’t you believe what he said about my…” etc etc.

Or maybe your “friendly local British worker” might be a better bet. Cheerful chat and a re-assuring “be done before you know it” before it considers your tea bag and digestive biscuit supply for 15 minutes and then offers you a ‘deal for cash’ at the end to save on the VAT. If you are really lucky, it might even whistle at your wife as she passes – maybe brightening her day!

Further brightening your day, and following a twitter from a blog reader, I must direct you to website www.musicalverse.co.uk, where owner Jesse Owen is doing something special sharing a love of musical theatre with the world. Oh, and giving the book a nice mention too.

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