My trusty laser gun

I agree that the technological wonderment directed at the price scanner, maybe the first widespread omen hinting at the flashy, beeping future of scifi, has been diverted into other streams. By the time lasers became pocket-sized, they were an annoyance driving us insane at Seacourt Cinemas as we groaned loudly, turning about to see who was responsible for the sudden red boil on Robin Tunney’s face.

Our sense of wonder is painted over and the original base coat can’t help but look mundane.

But still, when I’m at the register at TJ’s and some reluctant kid is gripping tightly to his box of animal crackers, I just say to him: “Hey buddy. Can I shoot it with my laser gun?”

Works every time.

From NPR’s All Tech Considered:

Bar Codes: The Thrill Is Gone

A barcode read by a laser.

A package’s barcode is scanned by a laser. (Scott Vickers /

By Eyder Peralta

I remember as a kid, the one thing that made me want to be a grocery store clerk was the bar-code reader. My mom would warn me over and over that lasers hurt your eyes. “If you look into those machines, you’ll go blind,” she screamed. Mind you, my mom said the same thing about microwaves and televisions but I always looked.

I looked and saw the silver drums spinning and that array of dangerous, crisscrossing red lines. I ran my hands on top of the machine in hopes, perhaps, that it could tell me something about my life and in fear that the red lasers could cut right through my skin. None of that ever happened, of course. But, on at least a few occasions, I snuck a can or a box across those mesmerizing lasers before the cashier had a chance to ring up an item. And sure enough, like magic, the computer would know that it was a can of Goya red beans or a box of Corn Flakes.

Read the rest.

One response to “My trusty laser gun

  1. This wiry old lady the other day made me type in each UPC because she didn’t want her food to be “irradiated” by the scanner. I was going to explain to her what a laser actually is (and that sunlight is much more lethal), but then I realized that if she made it this far in life without a basic understanding of light physics, no TJ’s checkout guy will be able to teach her.

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