Our culture’s ever-increasing individualism is about to take a decisive turn. Any day now self-checkout lanes in our stores will outnumber the lanes that lead shoppers to a human cashier. At that point, “going to the market” will become a solitary enterprise.
When I walk into the grocery store closest to my home, I enter an environment designed to encourage me to do my shopping quickly and without bothering the help. Shopping carts stand waiting for me at the front door. Signs above the aisles announce the main products to be found there, and the employees are scarce. There are four check-out stations where I can scan my own groceries, place them into plastic sacks, process my coupons and feed my money into a slot. All by myself. If I do it the right way, I successfully purchase a week’s worth of groceries without ever interacting with another human being.