• Mel Jones

Human Interaction - Not (posted for Ed Cook)

I’m worried, yes I’m worried. The other day I was at a local mall, and a young lady walked into me, bounced off, and walked along. She was texting, apparently a significant text. She did not say excuse me, did not look up, just kept looking at her phone. Incredible! I think it is a symptom of the lack of human interaction we see in the world today which is increasing at an accelerating pace.

One local supermarket has replaced 50% of its checkout stations with self-serve check-outs. I am a regular at the store, and I told the Customer service manager (He’s been there for many years and he recognized me) right after they were installed that I will continue to stand in line for a human to check me out. He said ok – what could he say. I asked him if he had ever been a cashier. He proudly said yes. “That’s how I started with this company.” I said: “Suppose they had installed the automated checkers and had not needed to hire you back when you started. The smile that had been on his face went very sad. He got it. Boy did he get it. A few weeks later, I’m standing in line, and there he is again. The lines for the three operating human check-outs are long and getting longer. There is one person at the ten open automated checkouts. I call over to him, “I guess I’m not the only one willing to stand in line to be checked out by a person.” He looks at me quizzically; I point to the automated checkouts. He looks back at me with an expression something near a glare. Check and check-mate.

If you are old enough to remember NOT having a computer in your home, so you are over 30, think back to all the things we do now, all of us, by machine. Now I am not condemning technology, far from it, the microwave oven is one of mankind’s great inventions, right up there with the wheel. But there are things people and companies do that intentionally reduce human interaction, and they are being done at an increasing pace. ATM’s and Cell phones are pretty good inventions too.

I just gave the example of the kid texting. If any of my kids, I have 3, need to contact a friend, they text. When I tell them “just dial the phone and have a conversation to find out the whole answer” they look at me like I have just been declared insane. What, talk to people? This is the thing I fear most. I know I sound old saying this, but I’m worried that this generation is losing the ability to communicate. Every job ad I look at says “excellent written and verbal communication skills.” How do u build good skills if u don’t use u r brain 4 years of txtg? (Frightening but Word accepted these text signs without marking them as errors.)

I went to the doctor for my physical last month. My blood work came back, and I got a letter saying what the readings were and that my blood sugar had jumped a lot, to nearly diabetic levels. Would it have been out of the question to call me, in addition to the letter? I like my doctor, but I would no more write him a letter stating my problem than I would send him a smoke signal.

Need to ask a question of Comcast (Xfinity) or Fios? Good luck. Yesterday I found we need a new remote control. In the Boston area, we call it a clicker (or click-ah). I call today, and they say on the initial recording that “due to severe weather blah-blah very heavy call volumes blah-blah extremely long wait times.” So I figure that’s just to scare everyone to the website so they can hire - and pay - fewer people. Extreme weather? It’s sunny out! The weather this morning called for some rain, clearing out late morning and it will be sunny. Extreme weather?? Well, I’m home looking for a job so I said to myself, “how long could it be???, I’ll wait…and wait…and wait! An hour and 5 minutes!!! Tyrone gets on the phone, and he is fabulous. Friendly, almost sounded like he was happy I called. Ordered me a new click-ah and I thanked him saying “you were so good that it almost made the wait worth it.” The company’s Customer Service was awful, but you were great”. He asks how long I had to wait, and I told him. He asked if I could hold a moment. Yes. He talks to his supervisor and waives the $15 fee for the click-ah. GREAT! But I still shouldn’t have had to wait for 65 minutes.

Want to go on live chat? Most things have the manual online now so if you have a question about the online version you can do Live chat. Wouldn’t it make sense to get some of these chatters off the computer and put them on the phone?????!!!!!!! Also, is it possible that since you have a problem, maybe you don’t know what to ask? Or the problem may not let you get online. Recently I caved in and tried “live chat.” It was a computer on the other end!!!! I would type in my question, and it would come back with a canned answer like, “that does not match any option,” or “did you mean…?” Are you kidding, NO, I meant something totally different than I typed!!!! So it is “live chat” with a computer?!?! Really? So I’m chatting with a THING, which is supposed to, but doesn’t, understand what it is supposed to…Really?

Car repair is another example. I went to get the heated seat fixed on my wife’s car last March. They gave me a car for the day because there was an open recall for another item - which we did not know about, so life was good. Because of my teaching schedule then, I just barely made it back to the dealership before they closed at 9 pm. Hopped in the car and was on my way. I did not even have to pay because they were warranty items. So I got a ½ mile or so down the road and turned on the heated seat. Went on like a champ and then turned off in about a minute. Well, that was the problem I had brought it for and explained in the morning. The next day I returned. The service guy said, “the computer said it heated up to maximum temperature just as it was supposed to.” I asked, “did the computer say anything about it turning off about a minute later?” He said that was not part of the computer diagnostic. In nicer words, I said that he should sit his lazy butt in the car, turn it on, turn on the seat heater, and check for himself. I waited this time; they did as I suggested and found the problem. AMAZING! A human tested something and found the problem that the computer could not.

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