June 30, 2009 @ 7:01 am
On one of the fine drizzly rainy misty weekends of Bangalore I walk into a fancy music and books outlet. One of those huge places which have rows of CDs/DVDs/Books all expensively priced with pretty looking customers carrying pretty looking baskets filled to the brim with pretty looking CD and Book covers.
Everything pretty all around, I walk into the store through the white metal detectors, wiping furiously my slush stained shoes on the black porous wired mat below. We don’t want to disturb this pretty scene now, do we?
I walk through the aisles of books and movies, occassionally catching a pretty face or two – on the covers of these of course.
A couple of kids come running from behind, overtake me from both directions as I amble along, and run to someone they call “Daid” in a heavy American accent. Both of them have a few game CDs in their hand, with a lot of blood and gore and monsters on them.
“We don’t have this one Daid”, the older looking one drawls in a squeakish manner.
“Yeaaah”, the younger one concurs.
Daid looks at the heap of CDs and nonchalantly slides them into the pretty basket he is carrying. The CDs find their respective places amidst a pile of books and settle down comfortably. The kids rejoice, jump a bit and run along to some other corner of the store. More blood and gore there I suppose.
I haven’t been listening to much music off-late so am pretty (that word again!) clueless about what is good these days and what is not. After much thinking and walking up and down various genres, I settle on a couple of old Hindi songs CDs. The rain outside continued to pour and the sound of the pattering would occassionally find its way into the store thanks to some customer walking in.
Armed with just two CDs, both in my hand and not in a pretty basket, I walk up to the cash counter and wait patiently behind a lady who is carrying a pretty bag and a pretty basket too. While the cashier is summing up her purchases, along comes her kid with some fancy looking Playstation CDs. She doesn’t bother to look at them, unlike Daid, and passes them on dutifully to the cashier, who sweeps his bar code reader on them. The numbers tumble forward on the cash screen and the lady dishes out her credit card. I am still waiting with my two CDs in my hand.
A cashier at the other counter finds himself free and gestures me towards him. Feeling like a rather low-value customer, I walk up to him and lay down my CDs on the white counter. He picks up the first one and sweeps the bar-code reader on it. The numbers appear in green on the cash screen. He picks up the second one and sweeps the bar-code reader yet again. But nothing happens. No beep, no numbers increasing. He repeats the act. Nothing. He then looks closely at the label on the CD and keys in some numbers. Again, nothing happens.
He looks at me for a moment and then calls another cashier. The other dude comes around, sweeps the bar-code reader on the CD, then peers into the reader, taps it a bit and tries again. The thing refuses to read anything anymore.
Then, taking me by complete surprise, the cashier announces, “Sorry Sir, we can’t sell this. It is not present in our system.”
“What?” I ask out of disbelief, and the cashier thinks I hadn’t heard him so repeats himself.
“You are not selling me this CD because you don’t have it entered in your system? You are willing to lose a sale for this?” I ask back in further disbelief.
“Yes sir, we cannot help it.”
I laugh it off in a rather smirking tone, but no expression registers on the cashier. He is waiting for me to get the hell out of there and service Daid who is right behind me now.
“I think this is quite absurd. You are losing a customer because of your system. Just write down the code for now on paper and enter it later,” I suggest to him.
He looks at me for a moment and then disappears into a door behind the counter. Daid grunts a little. I prefer to believe it was because of all the blood and gore his kids are excited about.
The cashier returns and tells me, “That’s a good idea sir. I will write it down on paper”.
He jots down some digits, gives me a hand-written receipt and collects the cash. He then starts packing the two CDs in a small white plastic bag when I butt in to tell him that I don’t want the plastic bag. He looks at me for a moment as though there was something definitely wrong with me and then gives me the two CDs without the bag.
I take them in my hands, walk towards the exit, still wondering how a store could be so dependent on technology that its main focus of selling would be overshadowed.
In the background I hear the noises of Daid’s two kids who seem to be on a morphine-influenced drive up the technology curve.
I think to myself how even essential childhood fun is now being served by pixel-image creations magically served by bits and bytes. Are we just going to have more and more people who are comfortable to replace common sense with technology?
I walk out to my car, dodging the drops of water falling gently and eagerly play the CD that the store had refused to sell. The music submerges all random thoughts and I am finally able to smile at life through the fuzzy wet windscreen.