By David Sherman
Machines and teens keep telling me what to do and I’m sick of it.
My computer, in harmony with my tablet and phone, are always on my case. There are armies of teenagers in supermarkets and big-box stores (pre-lockdown) empowered to push us around. My cat screams at me. My car doesn’t stop with alarms and beeps and warning lights. Stove and fridge have beeps and musical alarms. Now, with Covid, because several thousand if not several hundred thousand assholes needed to party in Mexico or Florida or at home with a couple of hundred of their closest friends, the government is demanding we can’t take a walk after the 8 p.m. or they’ll bust us.
In these Covid days, though, malevolent teens rule. Going up the down staircase is now grounds for expulsion. Teens are now the minimum wage plus a buck or two keepers of the gate, no respect for us of advancing years, prolonged aches and hearing impairment.
“Don’t take that basket, take this cart!” “What? Oh, okay.”
“Stand there, you’re not allowed to stand here.” “Pardon? Okay.”
“You have to go that way. Not allowed to go this way.” “Okay.”
“Sanitation Theatre,” as it has been dubbed, has taken over. “Yes, I’ve washed my hands 38 times today, just don’t lick the shelf I touched.” Our fellow humans are potentially toxic and even bumping shoulders might bring catastrophic results, or so we’re led to believe.
“Once you’ve ordered you have to stand over there.” “Okay.”
“You have to take a cart.”
“But, I’m only getting a bottle of Jameson’s.”
“I know sir, but you have to take a cart.” I don’t ask why. I steer the cart with one hand and hold the bottle in the other. I pay for the bottle and the cart is whisked away and wiped down.
At the supermarket, the cashier sprays and wipes her conveyor belt after it met my bag of onions marinating in a puddle of disinfectant left after the last sponge bath. The cashier does this hundreds of times a day. There’s a better chance the rubber will crack from the alcohol she is forced to use than anyone catching Covid from tomatoes left for 30 seconds.
Teenagers in these jobs need the work. Some also need revenge for some abuse dished out by a parent or two. Some are just sadists. They have power. They’re paid shit but they can order everyone around. We’re stand-ins for parents, teachers, cops who have done them wrong. We’re paying for the fact their father wouldn’t loan them the car. Or the object of their affection slapped them silly for wandering hands.
The best employees are those that sink into a chair, hide behind their black mask and baseball cap and don’t want to know anything. They might be asleep. Good.
This perpetuates the myth that the virus treats us all equally, we’re all at risk, we’re in this together. We all have to stay careful.
Of course, we’re in and out of the store. The people who work there are sitting ducks for the maskless and careless maybe eight hours a day. They get to work behind a useless piece of plexiglass, in mask and goggles and uselessly wipe their work stations and inflame their shoulders and hands all day as they scan and sweat and breathe through a soggy mask. Same for bus drivers and factory workers.
The constant wiping and social distancing and plastic barriers and new exits and entrances and aisle directions, “Take a left at the chocolate bars, a right at the beer, a left at the freeze-dried soup, watch the arrows and stand against the wall for the butcher, are more theatre. Don’t touch the refrigerator case, don’t put your hand on the counter, talk louder, I can’t hear you through the mask from six feet away.” It’s all to make us feel better.
“Come on in, it’s really safe here. May we bathe you in Lysol?”
In the midst of the teenage renaissance, my gizmos are demanding daily that I put in my password. They desperately need to know that I’m me. Which I do so it can then ask me to to prove I’m me by answering a list of personal questions. “How many ounces of nuts do you put in your favourite cookie recipe” and “In the backseat of what kind of car were you conceived?”
If I answer correctly, I get to continue using my gizmos. Until tomorrow, when the machines again ask for my password. Microsoft demands every few days to be updated. Leave me alone. My operating system asks to be updated daily. Go away. Everybody and their brother wants to send me notifications. Everybody wants me to subscribe. Everyone asks for donations.
My fridge complains if it thinks the door has been open too long. What it’s telling me is I don’t really need to find the leftover chicken. My oven does the same if I have the cajones to baste or check whatever. Hurry. Hurry. Beep beep, beep beep.
My smart TV doesn’t let me stream films until it’s finished uploading or updating whatever it wants. It doesn’t ask permission. It knows who’s boss and it’s not the human with the remote control that doesn’t control.
I used to believe that I was a slave to the house cat, who, when aggrieved, walked on shelves and tables knocking things over or poked me in the eye when I slept.
But now, I know. I’m a slave to the machines and the teens.