This was first published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 25th March 2014
It is a truth universally acknowledged by irate parents everywhere, that there is little as frustrating in life as a self-service till.
Having done battle with one this afternoon, I am filled with venom for the heinous instrument of torture. What kind of evil tormentor, I ask you, would invent a device with a scale at small-child-height? A scale that decides whether or not you are trying to shoplift, and a scale that is as temperamental as Elton John menstruating.
The self-service till looks innocent enough. ‘Come to me,’ it whispers, beguilingly. ‘Come to me and save that precious commodity of parents everywhere: time!’ Yet no sooner have you been seduced and approached the wanton temptress with your children at your side, than one of said offspring touches the scale and off it goes: UNFAMILIAR ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA.
Cue much toing and froing of items: items on, items off, items squashed in rage. Small children hovering, babbling incessant nonsense, threatening to put hands back in the bagging area.
God forbid you scan a bottle of alcohol, because then of course you’ll need ‘assistance’ due to age restrictions. The worst thing about this is when the ten year old behind the counter takes one look at your haggard countenance and sanctions the sale without hesitation. It takes every ounce of resilience not to break into the vino there and then, but to continue instead with the ludicrous concept of paying to serve oneself in this nightmare.
At this point, a security guard will suspect you of doing a Worall-Thompson. They arrive in the peripheries of your vision, which itself is getting a little blurred due to the parental sweat that is dribbling down your forehead. I can only assume that the security guard in our local shop spent his last job being attacked by kleptomaniac midgets, because the instant that he spots a small child in the store he is on them faster than women on a dance-floor when I Will Survive begins to play.
And then of course there is the rigmarole of whether you want bags, and if you are going to have to pay for them. By this stage I’d generally vouch for placing one over my head and tying the handles like strings, but stubborn determination to get my clubcard points keeps me going.
The final insult is when I pay and my children steal my change; child-height cash dispenser you see. Excellent.