Grumpy Old Coot

February 1, 2012 9:25 pm Published by
     On a recent vacation that required the renting of a vehicle and visiting a couple different addresses, I brought with me my own GPS and preprogrammed the addresses we intended to visit.  The process was flawless, and left me with no doubt that technology on this occasion saved me considerable aggravation. I have never been afraid of maps, rather geography and directional skills were always the least of my weaknesses. Yet I cannot deny that the availability of GPS has eliminated time consuming errors of judgment. It has also eliminated the need to think. And while I convince myself that if need be, I would be just fine with a paper map, I’m not so optimistic that my kids would fair as well.
  The other day, I drove through the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant and placed my order at the speaker. It was a weekend, and weekends seem to bring out younger employees, as the regular staff presumably enjoy their time off.  On this occasion a high school aged young lady took my order, and very pleasantly advised me that my order came to $4.25.  Reaching the window, I placed $5.25 in her hand, and waited for my change.  When the window opened again, out came my order, and with an outreached hand my change – 75 cents.  Hmmm, I thought to myself, perhaps she missed that I had given her a five dollar bill, and a quarter, preferring to get in return a single loonie as opposed to 3 quarters.
“ I think I gave you $5.25” I reminded her.
“ Yes, I know.” Came her reply, with no further explanation forthcoming. Hmmm again.
“I think the order came to $4.25.” I said, leaving allowance both for the possibility that I was incorrect, as well as leaving her a graceful way out.
“Yes, it did.” She replied, still pleasant, but beginning to look perplexed as to why I was still idling at the window.
“I think you gave me 75 cents change.” I said, to which she nodded her agreement.
At this point two things had become clear. Firstly, we had established that there was no misunderstanding as to what had happened, and that the disagreement was of a mathematical nature. Secondly, I had idled off about a dollar fifty worth of gasoline waiting for my extra quarter!  In the end, much to the relief of the line forming behind me, she gave me a quarter and muttered something about the machine having to be correct. Technology is great, but no substitute for learning to do things the old fashioned way – with your brains and hands. I left the drive thru feeling badly that I had made such a big deal about a quarter and worried that I had stressed the poor girl. For her part, I’m sure she just wrote me off as a grumpy old coot who couldn’t count.
   Relying on technology is this generation’s normal.  My daughter has, on more than one occasion explained to my wife and I with a straight face that she couldn’t wash the dishes because the dishwasher was full. When I suggested that maybe she could fill the sink with warm soapy water, she looked at me like I had pushed the limits of reasonableness. Come to think of it the countenance expressed upon her face bore a strong resemblance to the girl at the drive thru.  Maybe they are on to something – I seem to be the common denominator.
Thanks for reading,
Jeff Neumann

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