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Are We Losing our Ability to Talk to One Another?

I remember, back when I was just a lad, that filling the car with 25 cent a gallon gas was an event. We drove to the ‘service station’ and the owner came out and chatted with my dad. He then took the cap off our tank and started filling it. While that was going on, he washed our windows, checked the water and oil levels, and ensured that all our tires were properly inflated. There was a reason it was called a “service” station. Today, not so much.

Tell me about the service we get when we fill up with $4 a gallon gasoline. Does the fellow who sits in the bulletproof booth provide anything except a way to accept money if we are using cash. Cards are accepted at the pump. We have advanced from personal service to virtually no service.

And we are moving in the same direction in supermarkets, big box stores, (When was the last time you got help at Costco?) and banks. It’s been a decade since I have seen the inside of a bank, except when I lost my card and then watched the person at the bank dial the same 800 number that I could have dialed myself. OK I did get a temporary card on the spot, after spending an hour getting to the right person.

I wonder how the technology we have applied to parking has affected the service.

Back in the day, when the limit of technology was a time clock and a cigar box, I drove into the garage, was handed a ticket, and parked my car. If I was in an unfamiliar part of town, I asked the attendant for information and directions which was happily dispensed. When I left, I handed my ticket to the attendant who glanced at it, told me how much I owed, collected the fee and made change. I drove off recipient of a smile and a cheery “have a good day.”

Less you misunderstand, I’m not for a second saying that we should return to those wonderful days of yesterday, but I wonder at how much thought has gone into making the parking experience better for the parker, when so much brain power has gone into the technology that controls our garages. It seems to me that the tech is there to ensure money is collected and put in the bank, to reduce the payroll, to enable collection of data, to allow the use of variable rates no human could possibly compute, need I go on?

There are a couple of technologies that focus on the parker. LPR usage enables us to do away with credentials and automate the entry and exit process making life easier for the driver. Parking guidance systems do help in locating empty spaces in vast garages. Modern lighting systems do make garages safer. And parking reservation systems do help when parking is scarce.

The purpose of this screed isn’t to condemn the technology we have installed in our facilities, but to bemoan the fact that many people actually prefer it. How many times have you heard the line ‘thank heaven I don’t have to deal with that dunce of a bank teller,’ or ‘just leave me alone, I can pump my gas,’ or ‘wow, I sailed through that self-checkout lane at Ralphs. Now I can get home and back to social media.’

Have we lost our desire to speak to our fellow man? Is it so hard to ask about their family, or their day, or their job? Is the art of conversation gone the way of the dodo?

Technology has made parking faster, cleaner, more efficient, more business like. But has it made it better? Has Silicon Valley added us to one more of its conquests and removed the human factor from our business? And in doing so, stripped just a little more of our human contact away and removed a little bit of the good stuff that makes life real?

Think about it.

J

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