Friday, January 5, 2007

Fake Chicken Sounds

As much as possible I shop for groceries at Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market, because they sell the freshest, cheapest and widest varieties of produce from around the world. This week, for example, I had the enviable task of choosing between naval oranges from Florida, Texas, California or Mexico.

But for some items I simply have no viable choice other than to venture into one of the national chains such as Kroger or Publix, and the difference is striking even beyond the lower quality and higher prices of the produce.

My local Kroger store has several self-checkout aisles, which is pretty speedy now that I've grown accustomed to them. I scan the bar-coded items as quickly as most cashiers, bag my goods, feed my cash or credit card into the proper slots, grab my receipt and head on my way. It's generally much quicker than using the cashier.

But I still can’t get used to the disembodied voices of the scanning devices. They sound very friendly when they direct me to re-scan an item, remind me to get my change or thank me for shopping. But sometimes I find myself wanting to say "you'r welcome", and that unsettles me. I’ve begun selecting the option for the machine to communicate in Spanish, which I don't speak. Learning how to say “thank you, and don’t forget your change and your receipt” in another language may not be useful but it's fun in a stupid kind of way.

But what really throws me is the sound of thunder coming from hidden loudspeakers while an automatic water mister sprays the produce. I've looked around to see if anyone else takes offense at this corporate affectation, but no one ever seems to notice, much less mind. My kids love it, actually.

The absolute nadir for me is the sound of contentedly clucking chickens emanating from the egg display. It's as if Kroger’s eggs are so fresh that a roost of White Leghorns is perched just behind the refrigerated section. I’ve tried to joke with fellow shoppers about this absurdity, hoping to at least get back a wan ‘what-can-you-do’ smile, but invariably they divert their gaze and edge their cart away from me without making it seem obvious. With the set jaw of the righteous I've once or twice gone as far as hoisting myself onto the edge of the display bin and quickly reaching up to turn off the loudspeakers.

So far the butcher case hasn’t resorted to broadcasting the sound of cows and pigs milling about, but I presume that day is coming soon. Once that happens no area of the store will be safe, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to bring myself to steer my cart down the toilet paper aisle.

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