Thank me for bagging?

When I was growing up, I was used to (being an American) having cashiers bag groceries for me. I wait in line, wait for the cashier to scan my groceries, and then wait for the cashier to bag my groceries, and then pay for my groceries.

Then I studied a semester in England and found none of the grocery stores had cashiers who bagged groceries for customers (at least not on a regular basis—there were some exceptions). At first, I thought this was outrageous. I want customer service. I’m paying for these groceries. You bag them for me.

Now I don’t know if things are different in England now (it’s been a few years since the last time I was there), but recently I’ve been bagging my own groceries and the cashiers all thank me (“Thanks for bagging”). They always act surprised and a little relieved. The line moves faster. They have a little less stress, and it didn’t really take that much effort on my part.

Now, I guess, I have a little different perspective. Instead of feeling entitled to having people bag my groceries for me, I think it’s ridiculous when I see people stand around doing nothing while their groceries are being rung up and then standing around even longer while their groceries are being bagged. I always appreciate a good thank-you, naturally, but they are my groceries, after all. If anything, I should be thanking them when they bag my groceries for me.

Computers Life Linux Ubuntu

What do grocery stores and operating systems have in common?

Who would have ever thought I’d be comparing Trader Joe’s to Ubuntu?

Well, in recent years, a lot of the grocery stores in our neighborhood have been closing down, so Trader Joe’s is one of the few still around. When my wife and I started shopping there originally, we made a regular habit of shopping at both Trader Joe’s (which touts itself as a unique grocery store) and regular grocery stores. As time went on, we found ourselves shopping more and more at Trader Joe’s and less and less at regular grocery stores. I found myself giving up Breyer’s ice cream for mochi ice cream. I found myself giving up Yoplait for Trader Joe’s yogurt. I found myself giving up Fresh Step for Space cat litter. Now, practically our entire grocery list can be found at Trader Joe’s. I still rely on a regular grocery store for Cheerios, tortillas, and Thomas’ English Muffins; the Joe’s O’s, Joe’s tortillas, and Joe’s English muffins just don’t cut it in my book… right now, but maybe that’ll change.

The same happened when I moved from Windows to Ubuntu. Initially, I dual-booted with WIndows for iTunes. Eventually, I weaned myself off iTunes and on to Rhythmbox. I gave up my iPod for an iAudio. I gave up the iTunes music store for actual CDs. My wife, who migrated from Windows to Mac found herself using more and more Mac applications. Initially, she was using Firefox and Thunderbird, but they both kept crashing, and she gradually moved from open source applications to Apple proprietary applications. Now she uses Safari and Mail. She’s even moved from Cyberduck to Transmit.

Whether it’s a grocery store or an operating system, the place you visit most or the system you boot into can often move you in a certain direction. It’s easy to get assimilated and hard to “serve two masters.”