Cambrian: Slice of Life

Grocery lines and carbon paper

Let’s say you’re in a long line at the supermarket checkstand, which doesn’t happen often in Cambria, I admit. But when it does, or you’re somewhere else, how do you fill the enforced downtime? There aren’t many options.

You might:

Recheck your list, identifying things you forgot to pick up before you lined up. But is having those items really worth going to the end of the line again, or hoping your momentarily unattended cart in line will reserve your spot?

Flip through the magazines filed at each checkstand, obviously there to tempt you into buying them.

Park your cart in line and dash to the car for those reusable grocery sacks in your trunk, the ones you forgot to bring in with you. Again.

Check e-mail on your Smart Phone, or call someone (if you can get a signal stores frequently are dead zones).

Zone out for a quick, open-eyed semi-snooze.

Or strike up a conversation, just as true Cambrians do along every aisle of Cookie Crock or Soto’s. Don’t know anybody else in line? Doesn’t matter. Strangers are probably bored, too, and most would welcome a distraction.

Recently, as I unloaded my cart’s contents onto the checkstand’s conveyer belt, a woman behind me in line saw my six large boxes of facial tissue and asked with a smile if she’d missed some sort of Kleenex sale.

“No,” I replied. “I’m just stocking up for cold and flu season.” I perused my purchases and mused, “I wonder how we ever got along without Kleenex and Scotch Tape.”

The woman answered, “I always think that about Post-It notes because I stick them everywhere.”

As we chatted, I said we assume such great products will be available forever. Then we get really upset if our favorites disappear because they’re no longer in favor with everybody else.

Sometimes obsolescence is progressive. How about record albums, 8-track tapes, Walkmans and cassettes. Got any 45s? Are you kidding me? With iTunes, Netflix, DVRs and On-Demand, even DVDs will disappear, I suspect.

Film cameras soon will vanish like the dodo, as will Mr. Edison’s incandescent light bulbs, outlawed into obscurity in favor of more energy-efficient LEDs and the cold, impersonal illumination of a compact fluorescent.

Cabbage Patch dolls, Tickle Me Elmo, and Beanie Babies are passé now, but don’t count them out forever. Remember Atari games, Rubik’s Cube and Pac-Man? They’re baaaaaaack.

Some people predict that newspapers, magazines and even books soon will be swept into the recycling pile of obscurity by Internet news blogs, the iPad and Kindle. That’s not an option I want to contemplate, being understandably biased in favor of print media, even though I’m into technology, too. I use a Blackberry, an iPod, GPS and Facebook page, and I blog and even tweet, by God, whenever I can remember to do so.

However, if traditional news media vanish, my inner mean little kid wonders where all those newsbloggers and e-reporters will get their information, since many of them now simply repackage stories from you guessed it newspapers and magazines.

Jumping off that meandering train of thought, the English language hasn’t necessarily kept up with the fast pace of technology and product discards. For instance, how long has it been since you used carbon paper to make a copy of a letter you were typing, and how long has it been since you typed on an actual typewriter? Do you speak Selectric? Or, if you’re younger than 30, do you even know what carbon paper and typewriters are?

But wait a minute. Some products may be obsolete, but their lingo lingers on.

Check out the address lines on an e-mail page. They’re usually labeled “To,” “CC” and “BCC,” right? And the literal translation of the last two? Yup “Carbon Copy” and “Blind Carbon Copy.” Go figure.

. Meanwhile, back at the grocery store, the checker scanned and packed my purchases, and I paid, went home, unloaded and then tried to find places to put it all.

Now, if inventors could just produce a device to do all that for us, it would be even more popular than Post-Its and Velcro. Forever. I guarantee it.