Susan Morrison: Self-service till death do us part

There's no time for hesitation at the checkout or a Bond villain-style worker will be on you. File picture: Neil Hanna
There's no time for hesitation at the checkout or a Bond villain-style worker will be on you. File picture: Neil Hanna
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HERE. A simple word but when barked with the venom of a Bond villain’s henchman it takes on a whole new level of horror.

When that little word is spat out by the aforementioned Bond villain’s henchman as he gestures to the spot where James will be incinerated, thrown off a cliff, dumped in a vat of mysteriously bubbling green goo, or perhaps all three, it’s seriously scary.

Usually your henchman will accessorise the threat with a grumpy expression, a natty line in work wear and a semi-automatic machine gun.

Usually your henchman will accessorise the threat with a grumpy expression, a natty line in work wear and a semi-automatic machine gun.

The backdrop to the peremptory command tends to be a huge map of the world. The nattily turned out superbaddie will use it to pinpoint the city his orbiting Death Ray will blow to kingdom come, unless the US government coughs up a million dollars which, children, was once considered a lot of money.

Today’s barking henchman stands before a different backdrop. It’s usually the offer of the day being punted by the supermarket of your choice.

The modern drop-you-in-a-crater-and-watch-you-melt attitude is now usually teamed up with a nylon uniform and a handful of plastic bags, employed in the place of the Uzi 9mm to gesture, not to a bridge that will swing open suddenly and dump the unwary into a shark infested in-office water feature, but to a self-service checkout till at Tesco. It could also be Asda. Or Morrisons.

They all have them now, and they all seem to have the same effect on the staff who have to marshal us trolley cattle to the tills.

Perhaps that strange red light emanating from inside the beepy machine has a terrible effect on otherwise perfectly pleasant people, turning them into control freaks in nylon, making them forget that the bewildered basket clutchers before them are not, in fact, preternaturally dim members of staff on a very tough training course.

A point, a command. “Here! Move, BOGOF-hunting peasant. Get thee to an available self-serve till, and do that right sharpish.”

These lofty demi-gods of the Work-It-Yourself Valhalla have more important matters to tend to than you.

Woe betide you, Earthling, if you hesitate. They’ll be on you. The sneer factor will hit 11 on the dial and, if you are particularly slow, there might be two of them standing close enough to indulge in a spot of synchronised eye-rolling and brow-lifting, coupled with the sort of irritated sigh that you imagine Margaret Thatcher used to silence criticism.

Ironically, today’s henchpersons sport badges that say “Happy to Help”, something Ernst Blofeld unaccountably missed off his team’s outfits. He may want to chat to his designer about that.

No redemption on the scary checkouts

Wherever possible, I tend to avoid the tills that confuse. For one thing, the minute I appear the technology has a sort of nervous breakdown and starts screaming about unexpected items in the bagging area. It turns out it’s usually me.

For another thing, I find that the staff who are actually on the traditional tills are usually a cheery chatty lot.

I assume therefore that the miserable staff are diverted to the Tills That Serve Themselves, where they get to act like the bad prison guards in the Shawshank Redemption.

Bowie sprinkled his star dust all over the world

Bowie. He only ever needed one name, really. The word genius gets kicked about with abandon these days, but Bowie was the real deal.

The man made not just the music that provided the soundtrack for all us old fogies, he proved that being relevant and creative are not the preserve of the young, something people looking for new employees should sometimes take account of.

In a world where talent-free nobodies can swamp the world with images of their cosmetically-engineered bahookies, the details of their marital implosions or the calorific content of their low-sodium, fat-free, gluten-reduced organic vegan sushi lunch, Bowie chose to do something else. He didn’t tell us he had cancer. He turned it into the ultimate curtain call of all time. That’s genius.

You’re never too old to fall in love

And then good news to raise our spirits. Jerry Hall, ex-supermodel and woman who used to hang about with Mick Jagger, has decided to get married, which is lovely. Jerry is marrying Love’s Young Dream, Rupert Murdoch.

The laddie is only 84, so he can be forgiven for being as dizzy as a June bug when Jerry swept into his life.

Like Bowie’s towering example, Jerry and Rupert have shown us that being giddy in love isn’t just the preserve of the young and acne prone. I have no doubt these two kids are just as giggly as teens over the good fortune at finding each other in a world that can be so cold and unforgiving to multi-millionaires.

At least we won’t have to endure speculation that the bride is up the duff.