'I'll Take It' Does Not Compute

John G. Simpson is a semiretired veterinarian who lives in Camarillo

I have tried to convince myself as I grow older that progress is exemplified by the wonders of computerization. And then I get thunked in the head.

For example, recently I decided to check out the new Oshman's store in Camarillo. I found a blue shirt that fit perfectly and I swear made me look 10 years younger, so I took it up to the cash register.

The checkout lady couldn't find a price tag, so she paged Pam. (I am using pseudonyms because I might want to buy something there again, and besides I have a hard time remembering names.)

After about five minutes Pam showed up and asked, "What department did this come from?"

Trying to be helpful, I said I'd show her. There were no more blue shirts, but there were green shirts and white shirts, so she grabbed a white shirt with a price tag and back we went. Checkout Lady said, "We can't use this number because this is a white shirt, and he has a blue shirt."

Naively, I asked if they could possibly ring this shirt up as a white shirt. I was informed that if they did this, the computer would show that I bought a white shirt and that this would mess up the inventory, and besides if I decided to return it I would have a blue shirt and the computer would show that I purchased a white shirt. I felt guilty.

At this point it was decided Sam should be paged, because he would know what to do.

"Sam, please call station 206."

No answer. We were now about 20 minutes along.

Finally someone located Sam, who had been out of range. I pleaded with Sam and told him that I really wanted this shirt and if necessary would move to Europe so there would be no danger of my returning it. He mulled this over but decided that no exceptions could be made.

At this point he instructed Ginger (I had been handed over several times) to call another store and get the number of a blue shirt. She called two other stores but neither had a blue shirt.

By this time we were about 35 minutes into this and the only thing in the world I wanted was that blue shirt. Sam had vanished and I felt he suspected I was trying to beat the system.

Desperate, I whispered to Ginger that I really needed that shirt. She was a nice lady and could see that I was about to cry. She said, "I'll try and punch in another number and see if it works."

Eureka! It worked.

I was so happy that I wanted to hug her, but forbore, because along with everything else, I didn't want to be arrested for sexual molestation. I ran to the car, fearing that the computer would alert security and they would take my shirt away.

If I ever find another shirt that I want without a price tag, I will steal it. I would rather deal with the cops than a database.

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