I’m standing in a Walmart self-checkout line behind four elderly men. They are wearing polo shirts, tucked into khakis. If I had to guess, I’d say they’re on vacation.
They are pushing a cart full of food, toiletries, and beer. The checkout line is long.
One man says, “I don’t know why they have these god-forsaken self-checkout lanes. I don’t wanna check my ownself out.”
One of my favorite old-man words happens to be “ownself.” It’s even better in its plural form, “ownselfs.”
“Yeah,” adds another man. “It’s just like when they did away with full-service gas stations, remember those?”
“Back when you could get your windshield cleaned, tank filled, a Ko-Kola, and didn’t even have to get outta your car.”
“You know, I reckon if someone tried to wash a fella’s windshield today, the driver would be so shocked he’d think he was getting mugged.”
“Hey, I got mugged once. In Chicago. I thought it was a joke at first.”
“Did he beat you up?”
“Wasn’t a he. It was a woman.”
“A woman mugged you? Did she want your wallet?”
“She certainly didn’t want my body.”
“I’ve never been mugged.”
“Me neither. Ain’t never even been to Chicago.”
“Heard they have a bad smell downtown.”
“Ain’t that bad. Just watch out for the lady muggers.”
“How does this self-checkout thingy work? Are we supposed to just scan things our ownselfs?”
“Here, let me do it, Don, I self-checkout stuff all the time back home.”
“I don’t understand, why we can’t just have a cashier, what was wrong with cashiers?”
“The world’s changing.”
“It sure is. Just yesterday, my grandson asked me to watch a movie on his iPad, he kept pausing it every two seconds to answer texts. He can’t focus for more than a minute.”
“I don’t text.”
“Yeah, I can’t text because of autocorrect. Last week, I texted my son’s wife and my text ended up saying: ‘Excited you’re in town, I can’t wait to see those big beautiful nipples again.’”
The men completely lose it.
“I was trying to spell DIMPLES.”
“No wonder you got mugged by a woman.”
“Hey, I don’t know what we’re supposed to do with this self-checkout. Do we just start scanning things or what?”
“Don’t ask me. I can’t read the screen without my glasses.”
“Just raise your hand, they’ll send someone over to help us.”
“Yeah, raise your hand, Don, let us see those big beautiful nipples.”
“Ma’am? I need help! Ma’am! Please, I need service over here!”
“Did a woman really mug you?”
“Yes. She was very athletic.”
“Wow, I think I woulda asked her to marry me.”
“Ma’am! Please! Over here! I don’t know what the screen is telling me to do.”
A woman in an official vest approaches. The screen is blinking. The man has apparently tried to ring up a six-pack, but the machine won’t let him proceed without identification.
She says, “Gonna need to see some ID.”
“ID?” he says. “Seriously? Do I look like a nineteen-year-old to you?”
She frowns. “I dunno, maybe.”
The man shows her a driver’s license. The woman glances at it, then presses a few numbers on a keypad and leaves.
“Hey,” says one man, “she wasn’t bad looking.”
“Shut up, she can still hear you.”
“She can’t hear me, I’m whispering.”
“You’ve haven’t whispered since you got those five-and-dime hearing aids.”
“Hey, the machine’s making a noise again.”
The man hits it with his palm. “Stupid computer, you stupid, stupid computer.”
“Why don’t you call your girlfriend again?”
“Ma’am! Over here! Ma’am! I need help, please!”
“Good going, Fonz, you broke the dumb machine.”
The woman approaches again. Her arms are folded. “What is it this time?” she asks.
“The machine’s making noises again.”
She touches a few buttons, then laughs and says, “It wants you to insert a card or cash.”
She walks away and the old men finally figure it out. When they finish paying, they shuffle to the parking lot together. I am behind them.
One man says, “Well, that was an ordeal.”
“You know what my daddy always said the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is?”
“I know, attitude, my daddy used that saying all the time, too.”
“Nope. Wrong. The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is big beautiful nipples.”
Next, I see them loading groceries with stiff backs and careful movements. There are at least five decades between us, but I share their feelings about how our world is turning out.
Sometimes, I don’t understand what’s happened to society. I do not understand why text messages are more prevalent than postcards. And I miss the golden age of newspapers.
I don’t know why lemon juice is made with artificial flavoring, but dishwashing detergent is made with “real lemons.”
I liked it better when children felt safe enough to ride bikes to the drugstore. I miss the era when people counted coins on shop counters instead of inserting cards into chip readers. I miss full-service gas stations.
And no matter how old I get, I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the self-checkout lane my ownself.
Faye - June 25, 2019 8:09 am
I loved reading this!!
Leslie in NC - June 25, 2019 8:30 am
This one is a jewel, Sean! I chuckled all the way through it.?
Cathi Russell - June 25, 2019 10:16 am
I’ve seen those guys! And this one had me laughing from the first paragraph miownself.
Naomi - June 25, 2019 10:59 am
Sean, since my husband doesn’t read your posts, I think that I can post this. My husband will be 89 years old this year. He was valedictorian of his graduating class, had a degree in business, is a retired Southern Baptist preacher, and retired from the AF, after 42 years, as a Lt Col. He probably has a genius IQ and is still sharp as a tack. That said, he cannot deal with the digital, computerized world that we are living in. He retired from the federal government just a short time after they got computers so he never learned how to use a computer. All of our bills are paperless and everything is auto pay so we never have to write checks. I set this up years ago because we traveled a lot and I couldn’t be home to pay the bills. However, my husband does not know how to pay for gas at the pump because you have to answer so many questions before it will accept your credit card so I have to fill up the tank. The same thing in the supermarket. Before I had a bad back, I would use the self checkout at the supermarket but he would get so frustrated that I had to quit. When he shops for groceries, he just hands the cashier and tells her to scan it. Our credit card has a chip, something he hasn’t figured out how to use yet. On top of that, our coffee pot broke a couple of years ago and I ordered one on line. It turned out to be a “digital” coffee pot. You need to have an IT degree to figure out how to use this coffee pot; so is our dishwasher. If I die before him, he will be up the creek.
Joe Patterson - June 25, 2019 11:08 am
Got an idea stay out of Walmart and self check out lines just another way to cut back on paying employees I will pass thanks again
Tina Harman - June 25, 2019 11:32 am
I loved this one! I laughed all the way through it, and I could see them standing around the self checkout with all their purchases. Thanks!
GaryD - June 25, 2019 11:35 am
I much prefer the self check-out lane. If a mistake is made, I can fuss at my own self.
Terri - June 25, 2019 11:54 am
Katie - June 25, 2019 12:29 pm
Thanks I needed a good laugh. I’ rarely use the self-check to help keep cashiers working. I absolutely refuse to use it if my husband wants to help!
Clark Hining - June 25, 2019 12:31 pm
You had me laughing on this one so hard my wife almost called 911. I resemble most of those remarks, especially about whispering. My wife shushes me if she thinks I’m fixing to whisper anything. But really Sean, if you don’t laugh you’ll cry. And if you can’t do either one, watch out!
Connie Havard Ryland - June 25, 2019 12:38 pm
I love this so much. I hate self checkout almost as much as I hate Walmart. I’m stuck with having to go to Walmart occasionally but I don’t use self check out unless there are are lines all the way through the store. Mostly I’m okay with the digital age we are in but I miss connecting with people on a personal level. Love and hugs.
Carolyn - June 25, 2019 12:55 pm
This was so funny. Couldn’t wait to see what your
drawing was going to be! Didhttps://seandietrich.com/old-guys/n’t expect it to be a jar of pickles! ?
Don Daniel - June 25, 2019 1:05 pm
Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - June 25, 2019 1:45 pm
This just made me cackle! Hokes Nluff, Alabama near Gadsden still has a gas station where they pump your gas for you.. only place I know of.
Susan Kennedy - June 25, 2019 2:20 pm
Jan - June 25, 2019 2:24 pm
Love it! I laughed out loud!!!
Jeanne Butler - June 25, 2019 2:44 pm
Great story. I love all your stories. I never use the self-checkout lanes. They put people out of work. So sad. I just hope I’m not here before that’s all there is and all the people with no jobs. Love you Sean
Sue Rollins - June 25, 2019 2:44 pm
I’ve opted to NEVER use a self-checkout if at all possible.
Janet Mary Lee - June 25, 2019 3:01 pm
Too funny!!! Lord I miss a gas station where I do not have to pump my own gas!! Doing most new things today seems to involve a good bit of nostalgia. And my daughter does laugh and tell me I am talking too loud. My ownself seems to have a lot in common with those ole folks. Thanks for making my dotage enjoyable this morning!! 🙂
Ken Dunn - June 25, 2019 3:16 pm
I’m one of those old guys but don’t do Walmart or self checkout. The main difference between business now and a few years back is CUSTOMER SERVICE or lack of. Businesses want your money but 99% offer NO customer service. My wife and I own a business and we pride ourselves on customer service. Nothing is electronic except the credit card machine. Probably half the time people just want to talk to a human so we are a sounding board for them. We don’t try to SELL to people, we try to HELP them. Most customers don’t have a lot of knowledge on our product lines so we ask plenty of questions to match the customer and what they really need. I guess we are old school and we do business that way- one on one eyeball to eyeball. We try to shop at locally owned businesses to help local families.
Pat - June 25, 2019 3:55 pm
I chuckled through the whole article…priceless! I don’t do self checkout either because I believe in job security.
Shelton A. - June 25, 2019 4:02 pm
I miss being able to play football on a Friday or Saturday night until our folks called us in-no worries about child predators or anything except having fun. I don’t miss collecting Green stamps because I had to lick them and put them in the book.
Anna - June 25, 2019 4:41 pm
Okay, Sean, you are definitely in Lewis Grizzard territory. You just keep getting better and better. ?
Linda Moon - June 25, 2019 6:05 pm
Speaking for myownself, the “own” inserted in between “my” and “self” is OWNERSHIP of my choices…..to use or not use self-checkouts, for instance. Or to discuss lack of attention spans with my grandson (which I did just this morning). I think there are many of us in my generation who would like to own and be of control of our choices, which seem to be fewer and fewer. I think maybe yourownself identifies with some of us, Sean!
Jack Cousyn - June 25, 2019 7:08 pm
John, you forgot to send yourself a copy!
Ol' Retired Geezer - June 25, 2019 7:38 pm
Well, Sean, you really hit it on the head today! Those self checkouts hate me, so I use them only if I’ve just one or two items and the human cashiers are swamped. I work on a tourist railroad and our Engineer has given those entities a great name: “Unemployment Machines”. Really looking forward to seeing/hearing you in Columbiana!
Linda Chipman - June 25, 2019 9:27 pm
Being a senior I understand this one so well. And got a really good laugh – thank you! Your line about lemon juice and dishwasher detergent is priceless!
Jannie Bug - June 25, 2019 9:52 pm
I used to work with an elderly gentleman who prided himself in being very capable for his age. On those rare occasions that he forgot something or repeated himself or failed to followup, when I asked him about it he would smile a toothy grin and tell me “I just wanted to make certain you were paying attention”. We both would laugh…there was no judgment and no defensiveness. He knew I had his back.
Jack Darnell - June 25, 2019 10:12 pm
Yep, you was behind Old Guys, it is easy to tell….
As always, I enjoyed the visit. Keep ’em coming.
Sherry & jack over in NC
Sheila G - June 26, 2019 6:47 am
The whole state of Oregon is where we should all retire…gas has to be pumped by a station employee.
Joan Campbell - July 25, 2019 12:49 pm
You’re cracking my ownself up this morning. Indeed!
Debbie Paulos - July 25, 2019 4:05 pm
Amy Allen - August 21, 2022 10:24 pm
😂😂😂😂OH MY GOODNESS!!! I love how your stories are so vivid that the one reading feels as though they are right there in the midst of the scene. I would love to have met those gentlemen! 😂😂😂 The elderly HAVE to be my favorite!! They don’t get this crazy world and feel free to share it. Best of all, they don’t care if you like it or not. No filters, just real!!
Thanks for sharing.