Time in a bottle at checkout

A FRIENDLY cashier is a better experience than the chilly self-checkout (Shutterstock).

Time travel is one of mankind’s fondest dreams, especially if it means going back to a kinder, slower-paced period … or into a greatly improved future.

About every two weeks or so, I accomplish something similar, albeit on a very minor scale. I go to the grocery store.

Marilyn and I patronize a wide variety of places to buy food, paper towels and soap. You might run into one or more of us at Vons, Ralphs, Sprouts, Walmart or Target.

But my favorite is Stater Bros., and I will tell you why. They – at least the one on Chapman Avenue – doesn’t have self-checkout.

The store was built in the mid-50s, and while it’s certainly been modernized over the years, the size of the building and the vibe of the place is definitely old school, and in a good way.

Because of its relatively modest size, it feels cozy. It has a nice variety of goods, although not as many as you’ll find down the street at a bigger supermarket.

What makes this store – or any like it – feel comfortable are the simple, human touches. The cashiers and box-persons (is that the right term?) are friendly and helpful in a way I don’t always find in other stores.

The other day, Irma helped me find the brown paper bags I needed, and the box-person made two special trips to retrieve them. We chatted a bit while she rang it all up and I feel as if the people there didn’t treat customers as obstacles to tolerate between breaks.

The absence of self-checkout is a major attraction to me. With self-checkout not only are you involved in the acrobatics of spinning your item around to find the scanning code, but you’re lifting and bagging heavy stuff while busy – sometimes impatient – people stack up behind you.

Of course, the purpose of going to self-checkout is to save labor costs. Walmart pushed that heavily, but has backed off in the face of a public backlash. If you want me to be my own cashier, would you like me to wash the windows and sweep the floors, too?

Some people – like Marilyn – prefer the self-checkout model. She’s better at it than I am and gets us out of the store quicker than I can. But I am at a stage in my life where taking it slow means savoring the passage of time and I like that.

If you see it that way, too, see you in the slow lane at Staters.

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