Remember back in the 1960s when real people used to pump your car’s gas while checking the oil and tire pressure?
Remember when, no matter what type of eating establishment you went to, a real person took your lunch order, brought the food to the table, and when you were finished whisked the dishes away?
At the department stores, fawning, over-attentive clerks hovered at your elbow making suggestions and asking if they could help. I used to find them distracting and a bit of an annoyance.
Remember when you went to the bank and a real live teller helped you with your banking needs, instead of getting it out of an ATM yourself?
How I long for those days.
Now we have to pump our own gas and check the car’s oil and tire pressure.
We stand in line at a counter and order lunch, then carry it to a table. When we are finished eating, we tote our dirty paper dishes and plastic sporks to the nearest trash can, dump them in, then stack the tray.
At the department stores these days, I defy you to find an employee walking around searching for someone they might help.
Oh, I believe there still are human employees, as opposed to automation, voice mail, and self-service. Maybe they are just in hiding, spying on us through two-way mirrors, eavesdropping through microphones, and peering through camera lenses.
We have no privacy. If you tried to slip something into your pocket, they would be all over you like a cheap date.
No matter where you are, you dare not discretely dislocate a wedgie from your underwear. Is this day of smartphones, you are likely to end up going viral.
They are not fooling me with those ATM machines either. Is a machine really smart enough to differentiate between currency denominations? Maybe there is somebody in there, hunched over in that little box, shoving money out the slot, making whirring and clicking noises while he and his fellow tellers inside the bank laugh at my checking account balance.
I also have given a lot of thought to those coupon dispensing machines in the grocery store. After I pay for my groceries, the cashier gives me a register receipt, my change, and a strip of coupons which are…get this…directly related to my purchases. Whatever product I bought, the coupon is likely to be for a competitor’s similar product. It is as if the coupon dispenser is mocking my choices. I suspect there is someone in there spying on my grocery purchases and then shoving coupons out the slot.
Yesterday I asked the clerk suspiciously, “Is that a camera lens,” pointing to the badge pinned to her chest.
“No, Ma’am, that is my award for 20 years of loyal service. How may I help you?”
“Well,” I asked, I’ve been wandering these aisles for 30 minutes but my search has been fruitless.”
“Fruit is in aisle six,” she said.
“No, no, I don’t need fruit. I am looking for…” I leaned close and whispered, “Mustache bleach. It is not for me, you understand. It’s for a friend. He’s, er, um, a department store Santa. Yeah, that’s it. His mustache is too dark. It is not realistic.”
“Christmas is over, Ma’am. Your mustache bleach is in aisle ten.”
“I told you it is not for me. I am far too young to need that kind of product. I am only 39 years old.”
“In dog years maybe,” she mumbled. “Look, Lady, I am looking in your cart and I see bran cereal, whole wheat bread, and prune juice. I know an old lady’s order when I see one. Who are you trying to kid?”
I don’t need any of that stuff,” I protested. “I happened to mention to your pharmacist that I was having trouble with my vowels and he thought I said bowels. I mix my vowels up all the tame. I mean time. See, I did it again. Which way to the exit? I am in a harry. I mean in a hurry. Oops, I did it again. Heh-heh.”
As she was scanning my groceries, I peered into the slot of the coupon dispensing machine and gave him a piece of my mind.
“I know you are in there, pal. This isn’t really my order. I am making up a care package for a friend. Yeah, that’s it. A friend. Hey, do I hear heavy breathing in there? Are you looking up my skirt, you pervert?”
I gave the machine a swift kick and it spewed out coupons for cellulite reducing cream, control top pantyhose, and a five dollar coupon for adult diapers.
Aha! I knew it!