Good Tech Bad Tech
Good Tech, Bad Tech
By Wes J. Pimentel
Everything in life has advantages and drawbacks. This piece is about technology. Sometimes I’m really impressed with what these innovative and resourceful people come up with. Sometimes I want to weep when I think about how many man-hours went into what I consider to be colossal wastes of time.
I love, and I mean absolutely love self-checkout lanes. Oh my God! Who invented these?! Where are you, sir? Ma’am? Please contact me as soon as you read this. You can have my first-born. In general, I’m very appreciative of anything that reduces interactions with potentially annoying or repulsive humans. ATM machines, pay-at-the-pump, the entire internet (thanks, Al),… So, you can imagine how ecstatic I’ve been as self-checkout lanes proliferate more and more of our favorite retailers. I was in the Home Depot the other day. I hadn’t been in a Home depot in years. Can you imagine my excitement upon discovering the ol’ Depot had hopped on the bandwagon, too? It was like a mini-orgasm. I looked up, let out an audible sigh, my shoulders slumped down in complete relaxation, and I’m pretty sure I started tearing up. These little gems of modernity are a godsend. I see self-checkout lanes like the Bible. I mean, we all know people did the actual labor to bring them about, but the Big Man was definitely involved somehow.
My appreciation of these little slices of high-tech gadgetry became painfully obvious last night at about 3:30 am. I was at Wal-Mart, buying a coffee-maker. On my way to checkout I discovered, to my dismay that their four self-checkout terminals were off. So, I made my way down the lanes to find a homosapien to help me with my purchase. Just as I was dreading the prospect of being confronted by whatever unsavory character this off-the-beaten track Wal-Mart had to offer at 3:30 am, she appeared; looking quite perturbed about having to interact with a human, herself. She was about 5’6”, 280lbs. Ugly as sin with some sort of skin-disease on her face, wearing an expression that screamed, “FUCK YOU!” She had almost all grey hair, so she must’ve been at least fifty-five. It was then that I looked over my shoulder at the self-checkouts and for the second time in my life, was brought to tears by them.
As if increasing convenience and helping to avoid humans weren’t enough of a contribution to society, the self-checkout is also a great source of entertainment. Few things in life are funnier to watch than Neanderthals trying to figure-out one of these nifty little machines. You really get to see “the top of the food-chain” in all its glory. You have the fear of the unknown, the realization that you’re being defeated by a device intended to make your life more convenient, and sometimes just outright desperation. I love walking up to the station right next to these people, and then walking away about twenty seconds later, receipt in hand. The look that this produces is priceless. You’d get the same look from someone being eaten alive by crocodiles, right after you simply walk across the stream, stepping from croc-head to croc-head. Not to mention the looks you get from all the people standing in the standard lines, looking all haggard and annoyed at having to stand in line. The looks are a nice mix of “It can’t be that easy,” and, “I hate you.” God bless America.
Just as technology can be used to enrich our lives (as in the above example), it can also be used to break-down the very fabric of our society from the inside, like some devastatingly infectious virus.
I was in one of these big chain restaurants the other day (their lack of originality will keep their name out of my writings) and I noticed the most peculiar use of technology. It was a bus-boy, wearing a super-cool ultra-modern headset. What the hell is this? Since when did a bus-boy’s job become so complicated, we had to validate its technical complexity with special-forces-type communication gear? Just wipe the tables off, asshole. When you see dirty dishes, pick them up. There; orientation over. There’s no need for “commands from the tower.” What piece of information is so critical to the performance of this kid’s tasks that it has to be broadcast via short-wave communication equipment? “There’s a dirty cup at table 5”? “Table 13 is dirty”? What? It’s not like their in his ear like, “Ryan, good job wipin’ off the tables. We just got word that the president is landing at 3pm, so after you’re done sorting the flatware, could you secure the landing zone?” Seriously, what the hell could they possibly be telling this kid, that they can’t just walk-up and say? Now, this is a HUGE nation-wide chain. A RIDICULOUS amount of man-hours and money have been invested in this bus-boy headset idea, from its inception, to its annoying presentation to me, while I was trying to enjoy my meal. For this, I weep. We are in a technological crisis, America. We don’t need bus-boys with headsets. We don’t need robots answering EVERY FUCKING phone call I make, and we don’t need every single thing in our lives to be automated.
The building in which I work has automated paper-towel dispensers in the restroom. Whose bright idea was this? Who thought the inconvenience of actually bringing your fingers together in a pinching motion and slightly tugging to secure a paper-towel was unbearable enough to require automation? What fat, lazy piece of shit actually sat down and drew up the plans for this indispensable leap in technology? What about the poor janitors? They used to only need to pop open a box, place the paper-towels in it and close it. Now, an automated-paper-towel dispenser briefing is part of the janitor orientation. Why do you think they’re janitors?!? They don’t want to mess with technology. They want a fair salary for low-tech labor. Pretty soon you’re going to need a college degree just to clean toilets.
Technology is a double-edged sword. It can be wonderful or phenomenally annoying. While convenience and comfort are vital to our quality of life, when taken too far, the plan can backfire. Successful automation goes unnoticed. Valuable technology makes you wonder how you ever got along without it. To all those “geniuses” out there trying desperately hard to make our lives easier, just remember this: burning calories is healthy. Let’s not automate ourselves into the fattest country on Earth. Oops! Too late.