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Robots at your local Wal-Mart
The lady smiles at her customer, a cleanshaven man that appears to be in his mid-thirties.
"Here's your change, your receipt, you have a wonderful day," she says in a cheery voice.
Then she drops her gaze to stare down. It appeared to me as if she were staring at the
scanner, though I wouldn't even have a clue as to why she was doing that. Her eyes went
blank, emotionless. Then as soon as I stepped up in front of her, her head snapped up
and she gave me a very warm smile, keeping her lips pressed together, which made
me wonder if, like another worker there, she had terrible dentistry hidden behind those
"Hello there!" she said in a too-cheery voice, grabbing my first item and swiping it over
her scanner, her eyes never leaving my face. "How are you doing today?" she asks,
dropping her gaze to watch what she was doing. I just kept staring at her. What would
she care if I did? She works at Walmart, they're used to people staring at them as if
they're nothing, worthless. Though that's not why I was staring at her. I was trying to
figure her out, and my latest theory was that perhaps she was a robot. Perhaps they
were all robots, fashioned so that Walmart didn't have to pay employees to work for
them, and they can work the poor hunks of metal "to death" so to speak without them
having a nervous or mental breakdown.
"Fine, thank you," I replied warmly, pulling my lips back into a smile, not giving away
even the slightest hint of what was going through my mind. Her gaze snapped back up
to my face and she smiled again. There it was again, that warm, almost too-sweet
smile. It looked so fake I wanted to reach out and smack it off her face, if only just
to feel her face and feel if it was real or made of silicone.
"That's good," she murmered, then dropped her gaze back down to the task she
was doing, which at that moment was running one of my cans of Ol' Roy dog food
over the scanner. I knew from experience that if I said no more to her that the only
thing she'd say to me would be "Here's your receipt, you have a wonderful day".
I'd been watching her while I was waiting in line. Her brown hair was pulled back at
the nape of her neck in a low ponytail, and she had a few strands that hung down
the side of her face. She kept flicking her head a little bit to flick them out of her
face from time to time, or she'd reach up and push them back behind her ear. But
one thing I noticed that she did consistantly everytime she finished with a customer
was stare down at her scanner. While I was waiting for her to finish scanning my
items, I took a peek over the counter and down at her scanner. It appeared as if
there was nothing interesting about it, just a regular scanner. Perhaps it was part
of the robotics system that they would have installed in her computerized mind.
Maybe they reboot or restart their program for every customer? That's what it
seemed like to me at least... The empty stare made it appear as if she were
wiping the slate clean in her mind, wiping away the experience she had just had
with her customer, and preparing herself for a new one.
She lifted her head and smiled at me, so I smiled back at her. Maybe robotics
was taking it a bit too far. Perhaps Wal-Mart had just brainwashed her. They
probably had a little room in the back made especially for brainwashing new
employees. Something to make them appear as if they were brainless robots
wearing that hideous beige and navy-blue ensemble. You'd have to be brainwashed
to even consider wearing something as hideous as that.
Finally I heard the sound of the receipt printer and the tearing sound as she pulled
off my receipt. She handed it over to me with a smile. I actually mouthed the words
she said to me as she said them to me. That's how predictable she was.
"Here's your receipt," she said as she handed it to me. "Have a wonderful day."
That voice, I'd decided, was just altogether too cheery for a human being to posess.
Especially on a Monday. I sighed a little to myself as I stepped away, but I continued
to watch her as I collected my bags. She had dropped her gaze down and was staring
at her scanner again with that empty stare. An elderly lady had been behind me, and
she now stepped up to the counter, and the cashier lifted her head, gave her a warm
smile, slate wiped clean, and said in that too-cheery voice...
"Hello, ma'am. How are you today?"
It was as I was walking down towards the door that I finally decided to go with my
brainwashing theory. Or maybe they were just all aliens or something. I decided I
didn't care, so long as they bagged my groceries right and didn't over-charge me for