A bank in town just decommissioned its last manual elevator that had been in service for 98 years. Five elevator operators were out of jobs, the vestiges of a profession that has all but disappeared.
The loss of the elevator positions caused me to think about all the opportunities for human connection that we have forgone in exchange for technological efficiencies. I used to have “my” travel agent that provided great conversations as well as airline tickets. There are barely any retail cashiers to chit-chat with anymore, with most larger stores moving almost exclusively to self-serve kiosks. I do my banking on my phone, pump my own gas and can do about anything from my computer without any need for personal interaction.
I wonder if the unintended consequences of all this isolation aren’t contributing to the incivility that we are experiencing. If we operate via machine and don’t recognize our interconnectedness with other people, it’s easier to dismiss or vilify them. Having those few minutes of small talk with a clerk about the weather reminds us that we have things in common and we’re all just trying to do our best. Talking with the elevator operator on the way to the top floor allows us to have a moment of community instead of just an express ride.
As you go about accomplishing your list of errands today, make sure at least one of them includes a human-to-human exchange. Say more to the cashier than “no bags, please.”