Momentarily forgetting where I was, I wondered if the man staring so intently at the computer screen was coordinating a manned space flight to the distant Red Planet.
His furrowed-brow calculations seemed so painstaking.
Or maybe he was immersed in his daily hardcore.
Then it hit me, I wasn’t in Mission Control. I was in one of the local tire stores waiting for the store manager to present me with $3.17 in change from the $20 I’d given him for $16.83 worth of routine maintenance.
I’d been standing there three minutes. Seemed more like thirty.
And every second of it was just dead time. I couldn’t read my book or return phone calls. I couldn’t even make small talk about things like the weather or if he thought the tires Fred Flintstone once used would have made his job easier or more difficult.
It was just me staring at him as he stared at the computer.
He’d move the mouse and click, move and click, move and click. The mouse seemed destined to move more than I would.
To what multiple prompts could he have been responding for a simple tire rotation and oil change?
I raise the point because this is becoming a common frustration in our daily lives. People who used to run routine cash transactions out of beat-up old cigar boxes are now being tasked with uploading information like we were at the garage to have our gallbladders removed.
They want to know where we live, our e-mail addresses and if we’ll please like them on Facebook.
I imagine security and theft-prevention is the stated impetus for computerized cash registers to be showing up even in places like tire shops and Mom & Pop pizza joints.
Because everyone knows it’s impossible to defeat the security presented by a competent computer system.
For goodness sake, these things have passwords!
I thought for a moment I’d just tell him to keep the change. It would be worth $3.17 just to get on with my life.
But I persisted. So did he.
I was struck by the irony we were in a room full of radials and the man in charge was incapable of getting on any kind of roll.
I was reminded how just days earlier we’d been marooned at our table at a Pittsburgh restaurant when it took forever to get the bill, which is more human than computer error.
And, gee, that almost never happens either!
It was at Jerome Bettis’s restaurant in Pittsburgh. Me and the family enjoyed a wonderful lunch. Friendly, attentive service. Relaxed atmosphere.
Plus, I love being anyplace where there’s an increased chance of seeing Bettis, who for my money might be the most cuddly looking Steeler ever.
I’m not saying I’d cuddle #36 if we saw him, but I can guarantee I’d nuzzle in for a picture and hold the pose for so long it’d awkward.
So the waitress asked if there was anything else. We said, no, just the check, please.
She disappeared. And I mean disappeared.
She was gone long enough to have a child. And I don’t mean just conceive one. I mean conceive and carry one to full term. Even a Bettis-sized baby.
It felt like nine months.
“You know,” I said, “maybe they enjoyed our patronage so much they’re giving us the meal for free.”
I suggested we get up and slowly start for the door. The dine and dash seemed like an invigorating solution.
I say to hell with the Iran peace treaty. I’d like to see Congress agree on set times when a consumer could legally get out of having to pay for services rendered.
If the tire guy takes more than three minutes to make change, it’s free.
If the waitress doesn’t bring the check in five minutes, you can split.
Think of how it’ll improve efficiency. Think of the fun of watching the big clock behind the register tick down as they frantically try and figure out what the damned computer wants.
Computers are ruining the world.
We need to reduce their usage in any instance where tried-n-true, less complicated methods got the job done.
I think I’m going to start writing my blog in long hand and just reading it aloud to passing strangers.
We’ll see how that works.
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