I’m the family’s designated errand boy. It’s not a gender-specific description, just a traditional label. You hardly ever hear anybody say “errand girls” or “errand persons,” though I’m sure they’re out there doing a bang-up job.
Running errands fell on my shoulders for good reason. For one thing, I’m a mobile person who commutes more than 35 miles to and from work.
I also like to drive, and since I occasionally nap at lunch, my car looks like I live in it. There’s a small pillow, light blanket, a guitar, healthy snacks, drinks, reading material, Advil, skin cream and, of course, my cameras.
My commute takes me through Liberty, where many of the errands are run, but there are also times when I gird my loins and go through that area with big-box stores and, at last count, 57 chain restaurants
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As you can imagine, I’m not a big-box kind of guy. I’d describe myself as a Meanderthal for whom back roads have become far more attractive than bright lights/big city.
Things like traffic, crowds and chain stores make my skin crawl, but if I need to stop at Target for a prescription or a dozen bagels, I’ll do it. I’m about as out of place there as a hobo at a fashion show, so sometimes I sweeten the deal with popcorn at the snack bar.
One day last week, I ran a trifecta of errands in Liberty — the bank, library and gas station. I expected bang-bang efficiency given their close proximity, but the experience only reinforced my discomfort with automation.
The bank was my own fault because I insisted on using the ATM to make a deposit. For one thing, no matter how I try to pull close enough to insert my card, I almost always have to unhook my seat belt and open the door.
Granted, I’m a klutz whose depth perception is challenged, but it seems the only other option is to whack the ATM with my side-view mirror.
I did better this time, but it was cold outside and I couldn’t use the touch screen with my gloves on. If this sounds like first-world pain, so be it. Then things really went south when the machine spit out two of my checks, not once but three times.
I swear on the Errand Boy’s Bible that by the time the checks were taken, I’d been asked a dozen times if I wanted to continue the transaction or simply sever the mortal coil.
Then there was the library and its new automated checkout machines. I’d used them before, so I felt pretty cocky about my chances of checking out three items at once.
The only reason I typed my PIN number wrong twice was the suffocating pressure I felt as a very sweet library clerk hovered over me.
Finally, there was the gas station whose pre-pay-only-at-the-pump procedure is more detailed than an application to medical school. The machine asked if I was a so-and-so club member; if I wanted the transaction run as credit or debit; what my PIN number was; if I needed a car wash or receipt; and, finally, what my ZIP code was.
The only thing it didn’t ask was how many home runs Mickey Mantle hit in 1961.
With those machines, you get one digit wrong and it tells you to “see the cashier,” a fate worse than death because you’ll be asked the same questions all over again.
No one makes me use this particular station, but it’s on my way to work and I’ve found it’s easy to find an open pump, the bathroom’s almost always free and the line inside is generally short.
Now I know why.
Errand boys, girls and persons are welcome to write me at email@example.com.