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Sun May 16, 2010 1:04 pm

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I went to my local grocery store the other day. I needed some shaved deli meat for my famous "Killer Roast Beef Sandwiches."

The deli counter is right there when you walk in and the scene was a typical early evening gotta-get-somethin-for-dinner rush. I counted six people ahead of me but when I pulled my number I found myself the twelfth seeker of the hand sliced grail. A large woman jostled me out of her line-of-display-case site, whining something about not being able to see the Gorgonzola.

As she maneuvered for the right viewing position I almost knocked over a free standing touch screen. What was this? Hiding there in plain sight was a brand new interface to the e-deli. A quick read of the electric pink sign taped to it revealed that I could scan my shopper's card, enter my deli order, and return in 15 minutes to pick it up. Further, the next time I came in I could just scan my card and it would remember my previous orders. I turned to see if anyone else was considering this too-good-to-be-true option, but the throng of 30-somethings waiting behind me seemed enthralled by Ms. Gorgonzola's demand for 4 slices of this and a quarter pound of that.

I boldly scanned my card, ordered a pound and a half of prime and retrieved my receipt from the robot clerk. The magic paper indicated that I could return in just 12 minutes to obtain dinner's main ingredient. Hoping to inspire the herd to follow me to this nirvana, in a rather loud voice I exclaimed, "Wow, is this cool!" But no one dared move, Ms G. had moved on to Prosciutto.

I moved toward the freshly baked rolls wondering if I had been duped, but perfectly content to sacrifice 12 minutes of my time to test this new-fangled idea. I walked through the aisles picking up chips and a bottle of the incredible Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce, elixir of the gods. I turned the corner toward the dairy section and there was Jim. I hadn't seen Jim since we both retired from Motorola five years earlier. I didn't even know he was still in Arizona. I shook his hand and wrote his new email address on the back of my deli receipt. We talked for awhile but he had to go. He was under strict orders to get milk and eggs and get home.

I grabbed the dip for the chips and headed back to the e-deli almost colliding with the cart of the rotund Ms Gorgonzola. Then, miracle of miracles, there, just behind the e-deli stand, was a tray with my order in it. Attached to my package was a dollar off coupon, just for trying the new system.

The faces of the deli traditionalists, already grim from their seemingly endless wait, appeared to turn angry as they realized the steam engine had clearly out delivered the pony express. I fully expected someone to shout, "Git a rope" as I carried my prized possession through the mob. Yet none of them made a move toward the electronic change agent standing ready, willing and able to improve their situation.

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«´¨`·.Pooja Merchant·´¨`»
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