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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


Permit us to bring to the fore a petty gripe. Which may well be universal.

A person walks into a medical facility. "Hi," he says to a staffer, who sits behind a computer display screen behind a plastic shield behind a counter. "I'm Jack Fox for a 2:15 with Dr. Mienswell."

Seated person: "OK. First name?"

Jack: "Jack."

Seated person: "OK." Tap tap tappity tap tap. Tap tap backspace tap tap tap. Tap tap tap tap tap tap tappity. Click. Click! Tap tappity tap tap. Tip tap tip tap tip tap. Click! Tap. Tap. … "Last name?"

By now you've figured out that Jack is a stand-in for an editorial writer who's had this experience a time or two. So for the sake of clarity, we'll drop the pretense and simply refer to that individual as "us" or "we." (It's a shortcut for an editorial board's hive mind, don't ya know.)

Because it would be both rude and anatomically impossible to stretch our neck sufficiently, we can only imagine what's going on behind the display behind the shield behind the counter. Security hacking? Compulsory shopping? NanNoWriMo?

It's not just at appointments. Once we caught a glimpse of the array of entry fields a cashier had to negotiate. She had turned the screen in order to confirm a phone number. We're not sure, but we believe we saw "FBI background check" in there somewhere. This was for a cat food purchase.

It's enough to make a person crave retina scans.

And it's all the more perplexing that it seems to occur not just on initial visits but at random. (Checking in online helps sometimes but not always.) Contrast it with the periodic alternative:

Us: "Hi, Jack Fox for a 3 p.m. with Dr. Dosokay."

Person behind display behind shield behind counter: "Any changes to your insurance?

Us (as "Jack"): "Nope."

PBDBSBC: "OK — you're all checked in!"

Say what?