Yesterday afternoon, I was queuing at a supermarket self-service check out, when the man in front of me had trouble swiping the barcode of a box of cereals. He noticed a speck on the glass and wiped it off with the tip of his finger. As he did so, the counter showed
Distal Phalanx Index Finger - Code DPIF 891212
An alarm went off, and two security men turned up at the Check Out. One of them used a Tazer on the customer, who fell to the ground and started to convulse on the floor. The second security guard took a strait-jacket out of his backpack, and with the help of the first, put it on the customer. The bigger of the two security guards dropped him on his shoulder. He carried him away like a fireman. It all took only a couple of minutes. You could see this had happened before. They didn’t talk, there was no indecision. Both knew exactly what to do and when to do it.
The other customers resumed their business as if nothing had happened. I asked a woman at a nearby cash desk about what had happened.
“They always put up resistance that’s why Security Tazers them and puts those awful strait-jackets on them.” She said.
“Who are ‘they’?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I just know that they are not like us. They are a 'mistake', and they need to be ‘retired’”.
That night I had a dream. I was in the same supermarket, but I was alone, and it was nighttime. It was dark, and I had a flashlight with me to see where I was going. The only light I can see is the monitor of the self-service checkout I’d been to the day before. I am about to run my finger over the glass to see if my finger has a barcode, to see if I’m a mistake if I also have to be “retired”.
That was when I woke up in a cold sweat.
The next day, I bumped into the woman from the cash desk, on the street. She handed me a tiny bottle and said:
“It’s nail varnish. Put it on your fingertips before shopping. I am sorry; it’s the best I can do. If you don’t know about the 'mistakes', it’s because you are one of them. I am sorry. Keep safe.”