I was at the self-checkout
scanning cans of stuff
searching for zucchini by weight
“a little help here”
for a friendly glitch.
It wants to know
How do I pay?
Card of course.
Push or tap?
The machine speaks advice:
“Please, take your bags.”
“Don’t forget your receipt.”
I wanted to tell the young, attractive,
and helpful (human) workers
about back in my day,
food on credit meant
the grocer or store kept your name
in a book, like a bookie,
then the annoying push-thingy machine and carbons
and you had to sign (press hard).
Do you want your carbons?
I would have bored them
with that not so long ago (true) bullshit.
So I took my stuff in plastic bags
and my receipt, and I smiled
and I thanked them by tagged name.
Two people I’d never set eyes on again.
Look both ways, AI (key word is artificial) is coming, scary or not.
Mind the gaps as some things (like legal pot) are still cash only,
but the drug dealers still allow limited time credit.
Day 17 prompt: write a poem that features forgotten technology.
It’s For You
Privacy was not an issue, there simply was none.
I vaguely recall the telephone first being installed,
owned and operated by the telephone company (till the break up),
on a party line shared with neighbors about four houses over.
It sat on a round table in a short hallway near the unlocked front door,
next to our living room, from where all could listen to every word I said.
I could listen back. Wires were straight or twisted, and got in the way,
or we fumbled with them. You only had to spin-dial three or four numbers.
Learning how to dial was like tying your shoes or walking. You just learnt.
Our number was Valley – forty – eight-hundred, and I’ve known that
for as long as I could say my name, maybe longer, like our address.
The farthest room from the phone was my parent’s upstairs front bedroom.
First my friends would call, mostly Jimmy or Jack. Then later, my girlfriends.
Only one at a time so no one had to ask her who was calling. But they did.
We had to turn down the TV so Dad could hear, but that was because
he couldn’t hear. The sound was always too loud. Dad did not like phones.
As I recall, no one called Dad until my half-brother went into the Maine Corps.
Danny called Dad. And when Danny was in a car wreck, Dad was called.
Few call my smart phone. I, too, have trouble hearing. I’m like my Mom.
Socially, I am like Dad, too. When the phone rang, someone answered it.
I remember when the scams and telemarketing started. If you wanted to text,
you needed to put a stamp on it, but it was only a few pennies for a post card.
Mom called family on weekends, and when I moved out, so did I. Sundays.
Long distance cost extra and over three minutes even more. No more.
Look both ways for someone to answer the phone.
Mind the gaps on a party line.
After leaving Mary’s Country Café in Colorado City, I was feeling bloated and wondering how and why I packed away so much of their chicken-fried steak. I was driving down a depressingly hot and joyless west-Texas country road, 20 miles east of nowhere special.
The desperation of the settlers who first moved there is unimaginable for me. They didn’t even have a/c in movie houses, movies at all, or a/c for that matter. The middle of nowhere may be overused and trite, but this place is there.
My excuse for being here is that I married a native. Her family and what is now our tribe live around there. I reckon they don’t know any better, but I’m here cuz they are.
After a while, I spied one of them plug-in jobs on the roadside. Casually leaning against the car was a hot (in both senses of the word) little number lookin’ plumb distressed in her flipflops, cutoff jeans, and a sweaty, thin tanktop. She was on the highway side with her arms folded looking at her cell phone like she might get service. Not out there.
I forget which rule it is that says no honorable man shall pass such a sight without rendering aid, so I just pulled on over after slowly driving past. It was a hot dry day, too miserable to be stuck in a fix of any kind. But that sweet little pumpkin-head was dressed fer it.
“Howdy ma’am. I’m Billy Don Russel from o’r West Bumbfuch. Y’all doin’ a’right?
That little girl acted plumb excited to see me. “Oh-Em-Gee. Thank God!”
Did I mention she had long black hair pulled tight into a quarterhorse tail that was sitckin’ out the back of a ball cap, like they do? The cap said Daisy Riding Service.
I managed to keep my eyes on hers and my eyebrows down. Men in them parts follow a strict role or can’t be trusted. And women like that are usually packin’ small caliber. Texas, ya know. We got critters, some are human.
With a neighborly smile I asked her, “What seems to be the problem, young lady?”
She held up her key FOB and screeched through her bright white teeth for the world to hear, “My clicker thingy won’t unlock my effing door and I can’t get into my gee-dee car.”
“Would you like me to try, Ma’am?”
She handed me her keys. I quickly glanced around expecting to see if a candid cell phone was recording all this. First, I tried to open the door with the handle. Sure ‘nuff, locked. Pressing the unlock button changed nothing.
I looked closer at the metal portion of the key and then back at the distressed damsel. She gave me a “told ya’” expression and shrugged her hot, sweaty, bare shoulders.
I gently slid the metal portion of the key into the little hole near the door handle and twisted slightly to an audible click. Handing her the key, I suggested she drive off first to be sure everything else is ok. She got in her car and rolled down the window.
“Thanks, Grandpa. I’m so embarrassed.”
“You drive careful, young lady. It’s dangerous country out there.”
“Please don’t tell Mom or Dad. They already think I’m a brainless twit. Tell Gramma I said hi.”
I managed to get back into my pickup with a straight face. My wife asked, “What was that all about?”
I looked at her and smiled, “Jessica said to tell you howdy. I’ll tell ya the rest over dinner, but she was having some technological issues.”
“She didn’t know how to use it?”
“More like didn’t know how not to use it.”
Look both ways on them deserted roads.
Tumble weed and roadrunners will get cha if ya don’t mind the gaps.