Rochester, New York, is a notorious model of terrible urban planning and idiotic corporate sponsorship. On the underdeveloped side of the Genesee River, next to the bus station, sits the “National Museum of Play,” an odd institution founded by Margaret Woodbury Strong — a Rochester native who inherited millions of dollars and used it to collect thousands of dolls.
The museum has rotating exhibits, but its centerpiece is an elaborate model of a Wegmans grocery store, sponsored by Wegmans, which is owned by the Wegmans family, which is the area’s sole billion-dollar dynasty.
In the mini Wegmans “Super Kids Market,” children select groceries (plastic produce, but real cereal boxes and genuine Chef Boyardee cans) from real grocery shelves, put them in real (miniaturized) Wegmans shopping carts, ring them upon functioning cash registers with real grocery scanners, and print themselves real receipts with a real Wegmans logo at the top.
It’s so fun. Pretend to work in a grocery store? Pretend to have money? Pretend you alone are in charge of what you eat and all you are going to eat forever is Cinnamon Toast Crunch and alphabet soup? Amazing.
But (for me, at least) that was the late ’90s. Far from novelty or spon-con child’s game, self-checkouts pop up everywhere now: at the new Target in Barclays Center where I buy my useless seasonal objects and knockoff Urban Outfitters clothes; at the CVS where I buy my disgusting seasonal candy; at the Panera Bread where I buy a seasonal autumn squash soup and half a grilled cheese. I’ve heard they are in grocery stores throughout the city, but I refuse to look…