by Drew Martin
Before the holiday season I suggested that we all pop down to Rio for the holidays to visit my youngest son's friend's family who moved back to Brazil. Then I looked into flights: $1,700 each - times five of us. That plan got shelved, and we stayed back in our town in New Jersey.
This might have had something to do with a half-hour-long dream I had last night in which I stood in one place the whole time: the check-out line of a large, nondescript grocery store in Rio. The cashiers were all pleasant, young people but the process was bunda-backwards.
There was something that resembled a cash register but the cashier only used it to enter some information for each product, which then spat out a green label with rounded corners that had the Portuguese word for the item in a black, bold Helvetica font. The cashier would stick the label on the item or on the outside of the thin, clear plastic bag that contained it. He would then turn back to the counter, lean over a little piece of scrap paper and scribble down the cost with a dull pencil, and add that to the accumulating sum. There were a lot of interruptions so it took a couple minutes to process each thing. It took so long that my first cashier had to be replaced, twice. I stood there, beside myself, wondering if it was a wise decision to buy so much fresh milk (four, gallon-sized containers) - that it would probably spoil by the time I got out of the store.
Finally, I asked if it would be easier to at least use a calculator. A woman came over, shouted something negative about Facebook and chided me for wanting everything immediately. The second cashier looked up from his manual calculations and convincingly said, "It's better this way."