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YOU HAVE to admit my neighbour John had an interesting idea after seeing Google rework that Toyota Prius so it would drive itself. Google’s engineers had cobbled up the car with radar, video, motion sensors, GPS — all the technology that let the “driver” take a nap till he gets to his destination. The Google car works pretty well out in California.
But then John borrowed the concept, installed it on a shopping cart, and headed to ShopRite for the week’s rations. His self-propelled carriage went down aisle one and up aisle two reading UPC codes to fetch coffee and cereal and whatever was on John’s shopping list. This is what Californians call a “killer application.”
Trouble started when John saw Carmelita, a cute employee in the produce area. John always kept an eye out for Carmelita, who appeared even more attractive now that John’s wife was at home. The carriage sped on, picking out a head of lettuce before becoming distracted by radishes at 79 cents a pound. The machine then spotted five cans of tomatoes for $10 and did a 90-degree turn into an old lady pushing a walker. The senior citizen pitched into the shelves of salad dressings while the shopping cart snatched up 50 cans of tomatoes.
An announcement went over the public address system: “Shopper down in aisle seven. Bring a mop and stretcher.”
The carriage pulled a U-turn and went after a sale of three-for-five-dollars jam just as Carmelita playfully stroked John’s cheek with a bunch of celery. John rolled his eyes and began fondling grapefruits suggestively, ignoring the distant crash as a pyramid of canned goods cascaded into aisle eight.
“Collision in aisle eight at the intersection of soap flakes and car polish,” the PA system shouted. “Two seniors down and a baby buggy rolling toward check-out!” A chorus of shrieks emanated from frozen foods.
John massaged the grapefruit while comparing it to Carmelita’s own well-stuffed smock. “Is all your produce this . . .” He paused. “This fresh and tender? How might I compare your skin to a garden’s delight? Is it as smooth as an eggplant?”
At that moment, two police officers wrenched the carriage to the ground wheels-up while, at the other end of the supermarket, the manager tackled John.
Sadly, John told me later, Carmelita was reassigned to inventory and Google put out a court injunction on John ever misusing its technology. I sympathized that the world had lost a really neat invention.
“That’s all right,” he said sadly. “I was also told never to show my face at ShopRite again.”