May 242013

Matt Haynes

“Oh, for goodness sake! Approval? Do I look like I’m under eighteen, you stupid machine?”

Although obviously the stupid machine couldn’t actually see her. Probably a good thing too: right now, she must look every one of her eighteen-plus-forty-odd years. Such an awful day. All the financial stuff… she’d just never taken an interest. Never had to. And now here was this… this computer telling her she couldn’t buy a small bottle of red wine without “approval”. She hadn’t known they made them so small, not till she’d seen the display. “O tempora o mores!” – she could just picture James rolling his eyes in mock despair.

She waited for someone to come. But the shop was busy and no one seemed interested. All around her, people were scanning and paying and heading home. If it had just been the milk, she would have queued up, but – it wasn’t. And she’d seen people using these machines…

The man at the neighbouring checkout was looking at her with something that might have been curiosity and might have been pity. Her cheeks prickled. It was years since she’d needed to tell the difference. He was probably even older than her, in his slightly-too-heavy overcoat and thin glasses. A French stick poked from the top of his orange bag, sensibly broken in half.

“Are you all right there?”

She gestured helplessly at the screen.

“It says I need someone to give me approval.”

He smiled.

“You’re doing just fine,” he said, picking up his carrier. “And I really like your hat.”

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