Growing up in Wooster Square provided us with easy access to downtown New Haven.
In its heyday, a visit to the central business district of the city provided a wonderful opportunity to shop in a way that is no longer available. Yes, there were large department stores with many departments for all the goods that were available and a sales staff that provided helpful service.
But, it was always more interesting and enjoyable to walk through all the other shops that sold specialty goods and where you could choose from among the vast array of distinct items that they carried. Shopping was an actual physical experience that took time, but where you bought goods that you had actually seen and touched.
How different shopping is now, with so many purchases being made online with no actual contact with the seller or the item itself.
This got me to thinking about how much my own world has changed in my lifetime - how many things that I used to do or consume have been eliminated. It seems as though just about every day, some new innovation has been developed that changes or even removes some part of my routine. Some of these advances do make life simpler because you can get information more easily and you can take care of business from home.
For instance, I can remember getting paid by check and going to the bank to cash it. I also had a savings account with a passbook in which the teller would apply the deposit. The bank was a familiar place and we knew the tellers by name.
During a recent visit to a local bank to change my address, the place was practically empty with just a few people there. For most of us, we can do all our banking online and not have to go in person to conduct business.
With so much electronic billing and communication available now, my mail delivery is steadily dwindling. How long before I won’t need to check for my mail on a daily basis, I wonder? There’s talk about drone package delivery in the near future, a package appears suddenly on your doorstep with no human involvement at all. And we all grow increasingly frustrated with how difficult it has become to have a phone conversation with an actual person - prompt after endless prompt that never seems to solve the problem.
I avoid self-checkout at the supermarket or any other place where they encourage you to do it yourself. It seems to me to be presumptuous for a business to ask me to take over what should be their responsibility to check out your purchases. They try to nudge you to those options by very often only having one regular check-out counter open while offering numerous choices for doing it yourself.
There seem to be so many useful services and commodities that are just no longer available. Butchers who could advise you on which cut of meat is best for your needs or a produce person who can advise you on how to best use the seasonal goods on display.
Countless services and opportunities to interact with service providers have disappeared and continue to make our lives more impersonal.
This is progress of sorts; I suppose because it makes the daily responsibilities of life easier to accomplish by eliminating the service provider. We now do more and more ourselves in order to accommodate our busy lives.
We look for the more impersonal solution to our life obligations in order to buy some more leisure time. I understand that, but I also believe that we all miss something important.
We have lost the opportunities that used to make life a little less isolating and a lot more friendly and interesting. Even though things may seem to change for the better, there’s always a price to pay. Perhaps we can all just try to look up once in a while, to enjoy the view.
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