Technology can be wonderful, but some changes aren’t better

Birthdays seem like a good time to give thanks for getting through another year and maybe a time to look back on what you’ve seen and experienced in your lifetime.

My birthday is coming up this month and I consider it one of those insignificant birthdays because it doesn’t end in a zero and move me into a new age group for racing. Kinda sad to say, I’ve reached the age where I’m usually in the highest age group for races.

As a pastor, I have officiated at funerals for people much older than me, some in their 90s or even over 100. As I ran their services, I thought about all the change they had seen in their lifetime.

Recently, to celebrate our wedding anniversary, we took a short trip to stay at a relatively new hotel that had been converted from an older building. It was interesting to see the old fashioned architecture. Also, during our stay, we saw that business with the hotel was conducted in a more modern way. These two things made me look back on my days in St. Louis

The technology was certainly different back then. What technology? I remember every other Friday was payday for my dad, and on those days the family would load into the car for that—a routine trip to the bank, which was probably five miles away. Our family, like many others, was there to cash the drive-thru paycheck.

Long lines usually greeted families, and to speed things up there was someone who would come to your car and collect your check and deposit slip and drive it to the bank. Queuing wasn’t so bad most of the time, but during the winter it could be quite taxing.

From the bank it was to the local gas station, where an attendant would come and pump your gas, wash your windshield and check the oil if necessary. You sat in the car and waited for them to perform their service. I don’t remember my dad using a credit card to pay. If he ran out of money, he would ask the attendant to put it “on the book” and he would pay later. No credit investigation was carried out, there was trust between the customer and the owner.

It doesn’t quite work that way now, does it? With online banking, you don’t have to do business at the bank, you can use your phone. I still haven’t gotten to the point where I stop going to the bank. My progress ends with checking my balances over the phone. Pumping your own gas is probably the only method available, although I’ve seen a few stations offering to pump it for you during the COVID pandemic. Oh, there is a squeegee available if you want to wash your windshield.

Back to our stay at the hotel. I would consider the hotel to be a very modern place both in decor (took a while to figure out how to use the water taps) and especially in their staff. The transactions were made through your phone. The only time I saw the front desk staff was when we checked in. This time was sent in advance by us via SMS. There was a number to call if the office was empty. Breakfast time was self serve which is not unusual. What was different was that there were no staff stationed nearby to check on the condition of the food. Some of the food was a bit junk.

At departure time, everything was done over the phone, without any paperwork. Did I enjoy the stay? Yes, but I don’t think I’m ready due to the lack of staff and most business being done over the phone. I wonder what happens if you don’t have a smartphone?

Times continue to change and it will be interesting to see where things are in five or ten years. Guess I better get familiar with my phone since my visits to the bank to do business will be overwhelmed. Good or bad, technology is the way of the future. Technology can be a wonderful thing when it works.

Stephen Taylor is a resident of Pleasant Hill and a retired minister.