What's Wrong With Our Society?
Or is it too late?
In the complicated world we live in, for most of us, the greatest challenge is managing daily living. Forget balancing a budget. With the price of gas and food these days, I consider robbing "Peter to pay Paul," as normal as chocolate and wine are part of the food pyramid. What happened to the days when I knew who my neighbors were, and thought nothing about calling a friend for help? Now, just staring at your neighbors could land you in court with a lawsuit. What has happened to our society?
I’ll tell you; its ATM machines and microwave ovens! Don’t scoff; I’m absolutely correct on this assessment.
Tracing the break in customer relations started with the ATM machine. There was a time when I would walk into a bank and the staff knew my name, greeted me with cheer, knew my family situation, and wished me well. Today, I’m lucky to get a smile out of the unknown person taking my money and handing me a piece of paper as proof.
ATM machines created a gap between the customer and the person working in the establishment. It is rare to go anywhere these days and not find an ATM machine in various stores, street corners, the post office, and even in some churches. “Hey, I forgot my checkbook. Not to worry, I’ll use the ATM for my tithe. That way I can blame my limit in the offering plate on the ATM machine.”
No longer do we need to interface with people to conduct business either. First gas stations arranged for you to pump your own gas, and then grocery store’s arranged for you to scan and pay for your own purchase. Branded department and lumber stores joined the no contact customer check-out craze, so that we now get irritated when someone actually wants to help us. “Well, I’m not an idiot. How hard can it be to scan the bar code and slide my ATM card through for my purchase? Besides, I don’t like the pimply-faced baggers who put my tomatoes at the bottom of the cans.”
With the advent of the ATM, a system of zero customer contact began. The ATM card replaced cash. Now, I’m lucky if I have more than twenty dollars in my wallet at any given moment. Need a bottle of water that costs $1.79? “Are you kidding me? I’m paying $5.73 a gallon for this bottled water?” No problem, I’m out of cash, or don’t want to spend it anyway. I’ll slide my ATM card through and be done with it. If it’s a purchase under $10, I won’t need to even sign for it. Time interfacing with anyone human, ten seconds at the most; and I hated having wait that long!
Societal fissures began when ATM machines halted human interactions. It didn’t stop there. When the internet started, we were fascinated. Now, I can shop and buy almost anything I could ever want or need, including my prescriptions, videos, books, and clothes, without leaving my home. Oh, and guess what? I paid for the stuff using my ATM card! Human interaction time is zero. Now that’s more like it.
With my ATM card, I suspect my human contact time is limited to less than an hour per day. Kids these days find interacting with their parents or siblings to be a waste of time. We worried about carpel tunnel syndrome from using the computer keyboard too much. I wonder what they’ll call it when these these kids who use their two thumbs for texting get hurt? Thumbitis syndrome or digititis perhaps? Who knows. I’ve watched young adults sit right next to each other in a restaurant, thumbs tapping away at 50 to 60 words per minute (abbreviated non-words of course), and never utter a single word to each other. Human proximity is two inches and yet zero conversation took place between multiple friends. How does one even start that kind of relationship? “Hello, give me your number. Great, I’ll text you later.” How does that work for a developing society?
My next complaint comes with microwave ovens. You didn’t think I had forgotten, did you?
Instantaneous everything has become the norm. We walk into a fast food restaurant and walk out with our food in under five minutes, most times. Plus, we paid for it with our ATM card. Five minutes, really? Do have any idea how long it takes to cook the meat and make it safe? FDA recommends a minimum cooking time of 3 minutes on each side and reaching an internal temperature of 160 °F. That’s 6 minutes, just for the meat. Then the buns need toasting and the assembly must take at least 2-3 minutes. All total, I’m guessing a minimum of 12 to 15 minutes, and yet, we walked out the door in five. “Wait, I forgot; they precooked everything and then placed it in a microwave before serving me!”
Going into a restaurant is no different. We order Chicken Marcella for dinner and impatiently wonder why it took 20 minutes to get our food? I cook, and the preparation time for Chicken Marcella is easily 35-40 minutes, plus, there’s the cooking time. Microwave ovens are the second bane of our society. These units have corrupted every fabric of our culture.
Along with our zero-human-contact, we now expect everything to be instantaneous. Patience levels have diminished in direct proportion to the expansion of microwave oven use. Things that once took hours must now be absolutely done in minutes. Nobody likes waiting for anything anymore. “What? You have a waiting list, just to eat? I’m outta here! Where’s the nearest fast food joint?”
My working career covered many years in the computer electronics industry. It began when I entered the US Navy where I learned about radar antenna for communications. After repairing the radar, the technicians would often test the device by pointing the dish down on the ocean toward a flock of sea gulls floating on the surface. In less than a minute, bloated and smoldering birds would flop over indicating the unit was up to par. I know what microwaves do to things. The energy frequency of a microwave causes the electrons of what’s being cooked, to vibrate excitedly, creating friction and resulting in heat. Perfectly stable electrons are now shaken to death until they reach 400 °F in a matter of seconds. God only knows what that did to the structure of the food. “But hey, I’m eating in a meal in six minutes. So back off!”
The construct of an instantaneous attitude has permeated into other areas of our society. We get impatient having to wait for anything. And so, microwave ovens, like the ATM machine, have created a society that expects instant results and zero tolerance for patience. These two devices set into motion an alteration in how we interact with each other and our expectations. The results of these two devices have ushered in other methods that expect quick and zero contact between humans. We meet partners without ever coming into contact. We can purchase houses and cars without leaving our desk chair. Good grief, we can even get a satellite photo of our neighbors and spy on the activity in their backyard pool!
So what’s next? I don’t know and don’t care. But, I hope I don’t have to wait very long and they accept my debit card.