Modernity’s Torments, Trials, Travails
I was attempting to purchase produce. “For me,” I said to the unhearing automated check-out device at the grocery store as I frantically searched for the for a pic of the apposite avocado cultivar (Hass? Florida?) “this self-service is getting a bit too selfie.”
As a youngster, I had calculatedly observed that ringing-up and bagging groceries was not a ticket to the top. Aptitude with an NCR mechanical cash register provided far fewer rewards than facility with FORTRAN on an IBM mainframe. The division of labor seemed quite fixed—each according to his highest and best abilities and together we could accomplish great things—Nile Canal, Hoover Dam, lunar missions, Velcro, and Waterproof Maybelline Ultra Big Lash Mascara… No man is an islet. Or an eyelet. (I’m getting confused–is an atoll an eyelet of an islet?) Nevertheless, my point is if all of us were left to our devices, we’d still be hunting and gathering on a Rift Valley savannah.
Yet increasingly, one is expected to be a Jumpin-Jack-Flash-of-all-trades. At the grocery, checking-out, bagging, and paying with a card and an insufficiently clandestine code.
“For our customers’ convenience,” the giant food distribution channel entices. This enterprise also terms its employees “associates” rather than the more apropos appellation “monetized serfs.”
Savings in money is made up for by the uncounted cost of customer’s time—time is money and not every man’s time is of equal value. A skilled vascular brain surgeon is perhaps not best occupied bagging groceries.
I pondered this niggling notion while self-checking out with my friend Dr. Tarrant: a Brit with a PHD, a tenured professorship at a Southern US University, and a wife and children in New Zealand. He has the greatest job—taking students to explore cultures in the Pacific—NZ, Fiji, Easter Island, others. A Captain Cook with frequent flyer miles. He holds three passports.
“Dr. T,” I said as we scanned peaches “I really don’t think this is your highest and best use. Anyway, why do you think that guy cut down the last life-sustaining tree on Easter Island?”
“It probably seemed like a good idea at the moment.”
Once there was “a grocer’s daughter from Grantham” and an ambitious boy from Dixon, Illinois. Whatever one thinks, one must admit Maggie and Ronnie changed the world.
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