Have yourself a merry little time warp

vertigoI think I might’ve said something around Halloween about how it’s all over once Halloween is done. Halloween was just a few days ago (right?) and here we are. It’s Thanksgiving week and I am trying to figure how I’ll get everything done and still work. And even us heathens are contemplating panicking about Christmas shopping. Me? Hmm. 1) I hate to shop. Except for grokkeries. Or fabric. Or beads. 2) I get seasick about the idea of obtaining any new possessions and so do my kids, for the most part. 3) I fergit. Probably a variation of #1 and #2. I know. My Jewish buddies just roll their eyes and laugh at me when I complain about Christmas.

Anyway. It was densely foggy this morning and it would’ve been a beautiful day to walk over to the river and downtown but I felt like I had too much to do. Mouse had an early hair-dressing call for her last performance this afternoon and I wanted to be around if she needed me for anything this morning. She doesn’t often need me but, “Moom, we could go and get me breakfast at the Plum Market and then I could go and pick up the hair lady and you could walk home.” Yes! Whatever you say, Mouse! Actually, I had been thinking about that scenario too.

I did stuff at home until it was *finally* noon, when the downtown stores on the Planet Ann Arbor open on Sunday. I am not complaining here. When I was a kid, most stores were not open at all on Sunday. I was grateful that some of my favorite boutiques were open at a time when I could get to them. Not that I shop at them often. Because I hate to shop, don’tcha know… But by noon, downtown was already crowded with shoppers and I felt overwhelmed even before I began.

And so, I was buying stuff at one of my favorite stores and, of all things, their computers were down. The cute young women (girls?) behind the counter were kind of fumbling with how to process transactions. They pulled out one of those old-fashioned mechanical credit card swipers with the carbon copy receipts. They could NOT figure out how to use that thing, which they were calling a “knuckle-buster”. Now I was not angry in the slightest about this. First: this particular store is run by volunteers. If you are not being paid, you are not expected to know everything on earth. So I was patient.

The thing is, I know how to use those old things. My college break job was running a checkout counter at the Tempo store in Sault Ste. Siberia. I actually loved that job. The only problem with it is that it didn’t pay anything more than minimum wage. But it was fun. The cash register I had to run? An old-fashioned mechanical thing with rows and rows of keys. We were on the cutting edge in some ways. Not only did I have to enter the price of something, I had to enter a department and line number and if it was “softlines”, I had to enter a “tag number”. All those numbers got printed out onto rolls of paper and sent to the home office by snail mail for “processing”. I worked there enough that I could ring people’s stuff up almost before they had put it on my checkout counter, department, line, and sometimes even tag number.

When somebody paid with a credit card, which I think was maybe about 3% of the time back in those days, it was just a pain in the you-know-what. If it was over $50, even if the customer was somebody like my dad, who managed one of the banks and knew the store owner, I would have to call the back office in the store, and *they* would have to call VISA or Mastercard to get an authorization number, and then the back office would call me back to give me that number and I would write it (by hand) onto the credit card receipt after I ran it through the knuckle buster. Irate customers? Hmmm. “Why do we have to wait? What’s the problem. Our credit is good.” They didn’t realize that I was just a lowly employee who was trying to follow the rules and not making a personal judgment about their potential ability to pay their bills.

I tried to tell this young woman how to use the knuckle buster. She was trying to put my debit card in *between* the receipt copies. I said [nicely], “you have to put the card *underneath* all of the copies so the carbon paper can imprint all of the copies. She could not figure it out. She didn’t exactly freak out but she was greatly relived when the manager came along and showed her how to use that piece of old-school technology. It was all okay. I paid for my stuff and got outta there and probably by the end of the day, everyone was an expert.

My guess was that this young woman was probably younger than my kids. It kind of blew my mind to think back to the days when *everybody* used knuckle-busters to process credit cards and most cashiers were freaked out when they had to learn to use some computerized device to do it. Now it’s totally the other way around. Go figure.

2 Responses to “Have yourself a merry little time warp”

  1. Margaret Says:

    Oh, I remember those credit card swiping machines. I’m sure they gave many people extra muscles!! I hate shopping too with a PASSION. I also hate getting a bunch of gifts I don’t want and then trying to find places for them. I only enjoy browsing in bookstores or nurseries in the spring. (love picking out plants to put in the ground!)

  2. grandmothertrucker Says:

    I want a house like that one…..