Monday, December 15, 2008

Product numbers

In a queue at the supermarket yesterday, I barely noticed the store attendant standing next to the person weighing out fruits and veggies. All he seemed to be doing, besides whispering something in the other persons’ ears, was picking the packets from the weighing machine and putting them on the counter. But one is so used to seeing surplus staff loitering around, I did not really take any notice till I got close enough to hear what he was saying.
Two sixty-nine, one thirty-seven, forty-eight – it was a series of disconnected numbers that he was muttering, each corresponding to one lot of produce stuffed into eco-unfriendly packs. It did not take a genius to figure out that he was telling the other person the product code, so it could be punched in, and the price tag generated. He never seemed to falter even once, and the names that came up on the screen were exactly what they were meant to be.
‘Do you know the numbers of all the stuff here,’ I could not help asking.
‘No, only of the fruits and veggies,’ he told me, as thought any one could be expected to know the product codes of all the stuff on sale in the supermarket.
‘How do you remember it all?’, I couldn’t help asking, but all I got in reply was a quick shrug of the shoulders.
True, that is his job, and knowing product codes is probably the most important thing he is expected to know, but I couldn’t but be impressed by his memory. Though capable of absorbing all kinds of silly information, I am sure I would never be able to train my brain to remember that the green apples were 268, the yellow apples 347 and the cooking apples 168.
With a prodigious memory like that, the man had the potential to do anything, be anybody. But here he was working extremely long and uncomfortable hours in a job which, though making perfect use of his skills, was not exactly worthy of his brains. With greater opportunity, what could the man have become. Or, would he still manage to become that?

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