I've been a checkout guy and I know it's not as glamorous as some people make out.
Particularly on New Year's Eve at the one supermarket in town of a crowded coastal holiday hamlet, like the one we stayed at over the break, when the last-minute stampede is on for party supplies.
But we live in uncertain times and should never lose sight of our humanity.
As I approached my checkout guy, I knew how it had been going, but I asked anyhow.
"Not as bad as this morning," he replied, with a Saving Private Ryan kind of vibe, up to his armpits in sunburnt humanity.
"Had 'em lined up to the ice fridge," he added, referring quite a distance past the chips, chocolate and now empty ice fridge.
(Mental note: check the servo for ice on the way back to the house.)
You got the impression it had been relentless.
And I could relate, having been at the same supermarket on Christmas Eve doing the same thing.
That had been more like Gallipoli.
Legs like steel springs furiously pumping past rivals for the last ripe avocados in the joint.
But that's how it rolls in quiet coastal holiday hamlets and their supermarkets over the Christmas/New Year's break.
The week before Christmas, tumbleweeds, parking spaces and room to move in the shopping aisles.
The week after, screaming kids, jet skis, and hand-to-hand combat for fresh croissants as everyone heads to the beach.
You can almost feel the continent tilt.
Nothing to complain about, though, unless you're a checkout guy at the one supermarket of a quiet coastal holiday hamlet servicing the New Year's Eve stampede.
He had the 1000-yard stare going.
Focused, I think, on the end of his shift.
Unfortunately, judging by the body language, I'd say he was rostered on for New Year's day too.
"Chin up," I said, reaching out like you do in a taxi at 2am after a night on the sauce. "This is what you train for, eh?"
With that he vented.
"Train! They don't love us, they just throw us in the deep and say 'swim'."
Someone obviously needed a hug, which was understandable under the circumstances. And I would have obliged except there were customers lined up a mile deep and I had to move on in search of ice. So I flashed the plastic and wished him a happy New Year. Was that cold?
A week or so later, having returned to work myself and been through that familiar morph from free man to dead soul, I was reminded of that checkout operator by a Herald reader.
Peter Robinson tells me he never uses self-serve checkouts because they put people out of work.
Until that moment I'd always thought self-serve checkouts existed to help people conquer technophobia while their other halves read celebrity gossip mags.
Now I saw, they were created to put people out of work.
Peter would rather the human interaction of a real person, miserable or otherwise, getting paid to do a service.
And it's true, the only conversation you get from self-serve checkout is "please place item in the bag", even though you've usually placed the item in the bag.
Then it's invariably "please wait for assistance" as the chip in your credit card doesn't work on the pay wave.
Nor the insert. Nor the swipe. And sometimes even the balance.
Checkout guys can at least tell you how it's going, like my guy did on New Year's.
It didn't matter if it was abysmal, as he said.
Self serves don't have the capacity to say "my day has been abysmal". Or "Have you swiped the kitty litter at the base of your trolley or do you intend to shoplift it . . . again?"
Or that old classic: "That is a trellis tomato, you crook."
Self-serve checkouts lack humanity, mainly because they aren't human.
And for Peter Robinson, that's important. Going to a real checkout operator is all about looking after the little guy.
And given the dire employment predictions for 2015 it's worth thinking about. Unemployment is at record levels and the government has the workforce on notice that the axe is going to swing.
Everyone you talk to has war stories about redundancies or impending redundancies.
The consensus is that if you're considering leaving you're job, think realistically not optimistically.
Don't take employment for granted, stay positive and don't be complacent, unless you have a feasible plan B, C, D or Z that doesn't involve a bottle of scotch.
Getting "restructured" is just business, the toecutters say, nothing personal.
It just feels that way when you go through the grinder.
So maybe that's why I reached out to my checkout guy on New Year's.
Not just because I hate dead air when I pay for my groceries.
Nor to hit him up for a job, although checkout operator is a realistic plan if we "transcend" into an uncertain future.
Maybe I could just tell how it had been going.
But as I look to the year ahead, I wonder how it will go.