Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Technology, Baby...?

Every once in a while, I like to venture out of doors.

It gets kind of quiet around here and occasionally I miss using a public bathroom, getting stuck behind someone texting in the left lane or having small children in school buses give me the finger at stop signs, so I strap on my booties and out I go.

What I've been noticing on my field trips, particularly when I am seeking interaction with life forms with opposable thumbs and who don't say meow when I ask them a question, is that fewer and fewer opportunities for personal interaction exist these days.
Point, scan...easy, impersonal.

When our local supermarket installed a system in which shoppers can scan and bag their own groceries, paying with a swipe of a card at an automated checkout, I have to admit, I was thrilled.

Based on sheer laziness, I welcomed this chance to not have to remove each item from the cart, place it on the conveyor and bag it myself after a cashier scanned it. This process also cuts time -- occasionally significant -- off a supermarket visit.

Great, I thought. Saving time and not having to make small talk on days when the needle wobbles between Idi Amin and Atilla the Hun on my mood-o-meter is a win for all. But while I do enjoy this efficient alternative, as I see more self-check counters popping up, I realize that soon we'll be able to go about our daily business and never have to utter a word to another soul.

After spending time at one of my favorite websites, People of Walmart, this may seem like only a positive but I may want to chat with the woman wearing short shorts with the loaded colostomy bag strapped to her leg.
Point, scan..easy, impersonal.

And, while I also acknowledge the benefits of the EZ Pass, a popular system by which you can avoid long lines at toll booths while traveling America's highways, I do think back on days of pleasant interaction with toll both personnel who when smiled at would, 99 times out of a 100, smile back.

Yes, the remaining one percent were either serial killers or obvious sexual deviants but it was the most fleeting of interactions and, sometimes on a long trip, it was a refreshing moment for a tired driver.
A friendly moment

Toll takers were also valuable sources of directions when lost but now we have GPS systems. Trips into gas stations are beelines to the bathroom since we have pumped our own gas, too.
Did someone say "virtual sex?"

Obviously, there are positives and negatives about these faceless shortcuts but it's obvious that future generations will have little need to interact with others if so inclined. Why seek a mate or befriend other mommies at the playground when you can engage in virtual sex or hold an app up to your baby so a phone can decipher whether it's a hunger or full-diaper cry?
World's greatest invention

Yesterday in Target, after I loaded up on the staples I'd come for (Tootsie Pops and tube socks), I noticed a young mother walking the aisles with a small child of about three, facing her in the seat of the shopping cart.

Mama was on the phone and the boy was deeply engrossed in a video game. Neither was looking at the other but when the mother saw my look of unbridled disgust, she immediately began to interact with the child in an exaggerated manner, hoping it might change my mind about this detached scenario.

The fact that she recognized and reacted to my disapproval indicated that she understood what I'd witnessed was wrong and gave me hope as I nostalgically remembered my own shopping trips with the boys. We'd make lots of eye contact, talk, fool around, examine items together and they would learn stuff. It all seemed pretty basic.

So we are silenced as we streamline our daily lives using gizmos and scanners.

Are we better off?
Sonny Corleone is not a fan of toll booths.


  1. Judging by the way the mother knew exactly what you were thinking, tells me you are just like me - in that I was once told I should never play poker, because everything I think is on my face! Lol.
    I don't think we are better off by being able to not talk to other people - mind you, I could've done without talking to the man from India who tried to tell me I had a problem with my computer, and if I would just tell him some details he could help me fix it...
    Yeah - right! Not born yesterday, buster!

  2. Sonny Corleone and toll booths! LOLOLOL!!

  3. Agreed on all counts. Including the Tootsie Pops. And I would have said something to that idiot in Target.

  4. Is this not human interaction? Are you not entertained?

  5. I love interracting with my almost 3 year old at the store. I also love not having to make small talk, and deal with idiots who do not know how to bag groceries (common sense?!) I think, as for most things, moderation is key.

  6. She definitely knew what I was thinking, Janet...but I was surprised to see, through her actions, that she understood why...maybe there's hope? XXXOOO

  7. Yes, could that connection be ignored?

  8. She totally got it without me saying a word...glad we agree on the Tootsies!

  9. Thumbs up always for any "Gladiator" references, Scott!

  10. You are right, Amy...moderation is usually the key. And isn't a baby in a shopping cart pure joy??