There’s a gentleman who comes into my bar who goes by the name of Sarge. I can only assume he comes from a military background. I don’t know too many people who give themselves unearned, war-time nicknames. It’s not like I go around introducing myself as Lieutenant SportsChump.
Anyway, Sarge is here in Tampa on business, an extended stay if you will. Sarge, is in charge, of reconstructing the interior of a bank. When it is completed, however, this bank will not be like any bank you know… for it will have no tellers. It is yet another case of the Jetsons lifestyle taking over America and our future rapidly becoming our present,
When you walk into this bank, once the last brick is laid and the last tile placed, there will be little or no human interaction. You will either deposit, withdraw or do whatever else there is to do at a bank that does not involve people. For an old school cat like me, I can already see myself fumbling over the computerized details of opening up an IRA like Arnold Schwarzenegger ripping out the cab driver in Total Recall.
I just got back from a glorious vacation in my home town, New York City. Upon checking into our hotel, my travel companion and I found not a soul behind the counter. In fact, there wasn’t even a counter. Just a big TV screen that said “Check in Here.” For lack of a better term, we were concierge-less.
It wasn’t until we got to the fourth floor that we found some answers… and an actual human being.
Not long ago, I wrote about another trip to New York and a LaGuardia Airport bartender that wasn’t. I placed my order for nova, bagels and a Bloody Mary… through an iPad. This iPad did not entertain me with a story or a smile but rather five minutes of free backgammon and some video poker.
We sometimes joke in the field, not just my field but probably in everyone else’s, about how we’ll all eventually be replaced. Bartenders and bank tellers are not the only expendables. There’s talk of umpires soon being replaced by robots as well. Just out of curiosity, at your local supermarket, when’s the last time you scanned the barcode of the items you purchased and bagged them yourself instead of using a cashier?
I’m all for the continued advent of technology but I’m also fond of a little conversation, a “Hello, how are you?” that I am hearing and not reading.
I’m not too worried about my gig. I know of no robot that can do what I do nor of any regular customer of mine who prefers to be poured a drink from a mechanical arm. Half the fun of checking into a hotel in an unfamiliar area is asking the concierge about the nearest place to eat.
When I bank, mostly through the drive through, I greet my teller, she greets me back, always calling me by my first name. We’ve been sharing stories and smiles for the last ten years. I didn’t break the story to her about her kind eventually being replaced by TV screens. She’d probably chuckle, entirely secure in her gig too.
In fifty years, forty years, or perhaps even tomorrow, we’ll be living on floating islands and void of any meaningful human interaction that doesn’t involve a tablet or a Facebook page.
As someone who just came back from a family reunion, I can assure you that no tablet can ever replace a hug, a smile and some good conversation.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my Kindle.