The year is 1999. Normally I don’t pay much attention to things like that, however with the upcoming millennial New Year’s celebration the date is getting shoved in my face a lot. It’s a big event I hear; only happens once every thousand years or so.
I’m a cashier at Brammell & Branson. I doubt you’ve heard of the store as there’s only one of them and it’s in the rather affluent city of Southlake, Texas. The place looks like Whole Foods and SuperTarget had a baby. You can get clothing, furniture, household products, and electronics all in one place. There’s a grocery store stocking upscale brands of organic, fair-trade, non-GMO, eco-friendly goods; a whole lot junk the hippies would love, except there’s not a single granola-chewer for thirty miles. These customers are the stock-option six-figure affluent conservative Christians, who want to “do their part” for the environment without any real effort or inconvenience.
“Thirty-four cents is your change. Have a nice day,” I say, displaying as little emotion as possible. You would think that working in customer service at an upscale mega-mart means that I’d have to be chipper and cheery, however it’s a bit pointless when most of your customers are androids. The rich customers send them in to do their shopping for them. Now if you’re as much of a misanthrope as I am you’d think that any chance to avoid the unwashed masses would be splendiferous, and that’s what I thought when I started this gig.
Androids are a pain in the ass.
I’m sure you disagree with me, and I’d expect you to. After all it’s androids that cook your dinner, clean your house, and take your bratty kids to school; that is if you can afford one of ‘em. Androids are just now reaching that point where they’re affordable by the upper class, so someone breaking a hundred grand annually could pick up a pretty complex unit without too much of a hit to the pocketbook.
However, I see androids in a different light. To put it bluntly…their A.I. sucks. If you try to give them anything beyond simple instructions it just goes over their heads, and even that is too much for them sometimes. Sometimes you have to hook them up to the house computer and figure out the ridiculous complicated software to just get them to perform multiple tasks without crapping out halfway.
Androids are also stupid when it comes to compensating for when something breaks. This is pretty evident from the one that broke a servo and has been walking in a circle outside the front of the store for the past hour and a half. It’s pretty funny to watch…for about five minutes.
“Excuse me!” an irritated voice barks out. “Is there anyone working at the deli?”
Oh yeah, we have normal customers too.
“HEL-LO?!” she barks louder.
“Just a minute,” I grumble then grab the intercom. “CUSTOMER SERVICE TO THE DELI! CUSTOMER SERVICE TO THE DELI!” I make sure to shout loud enough to wake up the lazy dicks in the break room. The customer, now even more upset, stomps off in the direction of the jungle-like produce section.
“HELLO, CITIZEN!” a scratchy chipper sound buzzes out. It’s another android here to check out, a Babbage Labs Servotron Red-Series. I know this, because it says so on its chest; I can read you know. It’s got a basket full of many random pickings from the produce department. None of them are in bags, nor are they labeled, so I have to identify and ring up each one individually. It then places seven brown eggs on the counter. These also aren’t in any sort of packaging.
“You can’t buy eggs like that,” I say to the mindless bolt bucket. “They have to be in the egg container.”
“I AM SORRY! I DO NOT UNDERSTAND!” the stupid bot blurts out.
“THE EGGS! THEY…ARE…NOT…SOLD…INDIVIDUALLY!” I shout.
“I AM SORRY! I DO NOT UNDERSTAND!”
“Stupid robot…never mind,” I mutter and throw the eggs in the trash. I’m sure the stupid android’s stupid owner won’t notice. I quickly resume checkout scanning a box of tampons, six toothbrushes, and a box of jelly beans.
“Forty-six twenty-three is your total,” I blankly state to the android.
It quietly stands there.
“Your total is forty-six twenty-three.”
It’s not responding.
“Forty-six dollars and twenty-three cents,” I say to the android in a much too-cheery stupid voice.
“THANK YOU, CITIZEN!” the android perks up and holds its hand to the infrared scanner on the credit card machine. “PLEASE ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PART OF OUR MONETARY AGREEMENT AND CONFIRM THIS TRANSACTION OF FORTY-SIX DOLLARS AND TWENTY-THREE CENTS!”
I dump the eco-friendly recycled paper bags into the android’s cart.
“HAVE A NICE DAY, CITIZEN!” it crackles with static as it wheels the cart out. This is what I deal with every day. Why the hell can’t people just do their own damn shopping? I’d continue my rant, but apparently there’s a commotion going on outside.
“EXCUSE ME! I AM COMING THROUGH!”
“EXCUSE ME! I AM COMING THROUGH!”
Apparently the android I just checked out knocked into the other android that’s been spinning around in front of the store for the past two hours, and they’re both stuck in a very polite infinite loop.
“OH WHAT THE HELL!” I scream into the air.
The few human customers in line gawk at my outburst.
“W-WHAT?!” I stammer. “Can you believe those things?! Stupid androids!”
“You’re supposed to be friendly,” a timid little girl squeaks at me.
“Well I’m sorry, it’s just…” I’m so frustrated I can’t even finish my own sentence. I just point at the unholy assembly of computer parts knocking together just outside the front door. One of the gawking people gets the hint and runs for the manager. I resume checking out the remaining people in my line, but they slowly scatter for the other registers, every now and then looking back at me as I suddenly feel really bad for myself. My manager, Mr. Stibitz, then arrives with another man in a denim jumpsuit. I’m about to tell them about the stuck androids outside, but before I can the guy in the jumpsuit grabs the back of my neck. A simple “You’re fired” would have sufficed.
“This is the one with the malfunctioning personality chip,” Mr. Stibitz says to the denim-clad man. Wait, what’s going on; is this a joke?
“Just set the register offline for now…See, it threw some eggs in the trash…”
Okay, guys…joke’s over…why can’t I move or talk? I’d be squirming right now if not for the fact that I CAN’T MOVE!
Mr. Stibitz looks up at the customers. “WE’RE VERY SORRY! WE’RE HAVING SOME TECHNICAL ISSUES WITH THIS UNIT!”
I’m not a unit! I’m a PERSON!
“Hey the power button’s not working,” the jumpsuit guy says.
“You gotta hold it down,” My boss replies.
“I’m holding it down.”
Guys please stop screwing around! What did they do to me?! I’m not an android! I’m human! I’M HUMAN!!!
“Just disconnect the battery.”