Tucked away on the west side of the small town of Broad Channel in the middle of Jamiaca Bay is a narrow, dead end, street that goes by the name of West 12th Road. Those of us who live there know that the nice part about living in a small town is that when you are not quite sure what is going on, someone else always does!
[Peter J. Mahon West 12th Road, Broad Channel]
Back in the early 1800's bands of English workers called "Luddites", banded together and destroyed machinery, especially in cotton and woollen mills, that they believed was threatening their jobs. Some two hundred years later, the inexorable march of new technology and its accompanying dimunition of human contact continues unabated. This past weekend saw the end of the era of human toll collectors on the Cross Bay Bridge with the advent of the MTA's new "cashless" tolling system.
For the record, I am certainly not a Luddite espousing the citizenry to rise up and tear down the electronic gantries that have replaced a working man or woman in a toll booth. That would be just plain silly as E-Z Pass was already well on the way to ensuring their demise. It was just a matter of time. But I do believe that we should all take a minute to reflect on just how much "technology" has changed the world that we all live in.
Today we enter an elevator and press the button for which floor we want to go to. However, elevators weren’t always operated by the riders. Early elevators had operators who were in charge of getting the elevator where the passengers needed to go. By the mid-1960s, electronics ensured the days of the elevator operator were numbered.
Years ago one could simply dial "O" on the phone and be greeted by a knowledgeable and friendly human voice who would be happy to assist you in finding the number of the party to whom you wished to call. Today's automated answering systems accomplish the same task, minus the interpersonal human contact, but, push the wrong button or mumble a spoken word and you are quickly transported down a technological menu driven rabbit hole.
Are you old enough to remember pulling into a gas station and having an attendant cater to you fuel and other needs? "Clean your windows?...Check your fluids and tire pressure?" Not today. The automated fuel pumps require you to gas up and,as for all the other ameniities, you're on your own.
Back in the day I use to frequent a Savings Bank where the tellers all knew me and I could make a withdrawal without being charged a fee. Today all the local ATM knows about me is my PIN and, depending which ATM I use, never forgets to tack on a fee at the end of the transaction which consisted of nothing more than asking for some of my own funds back!
Even at the local supermarket the numbers of cashiers and packers are dwindling rapidly with the introduction of the self-checkout kiosks which require you to check each item out and bag it yourself.
I also fear that Librarians will soon become a thing of the past with the new self service check out and book return systems being put in place, The machine also tells you if you have an overdue fine on file and you can pay the machine right then and there! Mention the "Dewey Decimal System" to anyone under the age of thirty today, and all you get back is a puzzled look as if you were speaking Greek, By the way, if you are interested in Greek, you will find it in the 400 language series of the library's claassification (Dewey Decimal) system.
As I said earlier, I am most certainly not a luddite when it comes to new technology. Actually I firmly believe things will ultimately get better -- despite our efforts to improve them.
Broad Channel, why would anyone want to live anywhere else?