Video killed the radio star

As we continue our march through the 21st Century, there are still a great many people who are less than pleased about the various advances of technology and about how the so-called charge into a brave new world is affecting their lives and their nostalgic memories.

Henry Thoreau opined that “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” This is especially true when it comes to the Baby Boomer generation that is constantly trying to catchup with Gen X and Millennials on the technology choo-choo train.

Facebook is full of memes that disparage overweight, poorly dressed or otherwise ‘redneck’ people who shop at Wal-Mart.

Twitter or Facebook will not suspend your account if you share photos of a fat lady using a motorized cart while buying Twinkies and a case of Coca-Cola at Wal-Mart.

Boomers are those who write a check for their purchases at the supermarket. The ones who still pay cash for their Turnpike tolls. I’m not necessarily suggesting that all Boomers are a bunch of troglodytes, but if the shoe fits . . .

In a world where people are increasingly offended or feel marginalized, it is still acceptable to look down upon those who shop at Wal-Mart.

For all of its successes, Wal-Mart faces steep criticism from the pretty people who gladly shop at Target or Whole Foods.

Wal-Mart does not need me to defend it from gross mischaracterizations. (But if someone from their corporate headquarters wants to talk about public relations, please send me an email.)

Now, back to the talk of technology. We carry mini-computers in our back pocket. We have robots to clean the floors in our homes. We use Alexa for everything, ranging from setting the thermostat to maintaining a shopping list. Many people have satellite dishes on their roofs and satellite radio and GPS units in their cars.

In 1985, MTV only showed music videos. My girlfriend at that time said MTV wouldn’t last long because people would get “bored” watching videos. I wonder what she would say today about You-Tube? Today, MTV broadcasts “reality” shows such as “Jersey Shore” and “Sixteen and Pregnant.”

Would you like to join me and invest in opening a new Block-Buster store? Things change. And that’s not always such a bad thing.

Now back to Wal-Mart bashing.

Over the past year or so, dozens of social media memes have popped up, decrying the advance of the self-checkout lane option at Wal-Mart. They argue that this trend is poised to exterminate the need for cashiers. Really?

What other national retailer pays someone to simply greet and welcome you to the store?

Other memes include quips such as “when is Wal-Mart going to send me W2s if they expect me to work there?” Another meme: “if I wanted to self-checkout, I would stay at home and shop at Amazon.”

That last one leaves me scratching my bald head. Amazon is the epitome of technology and consumer trends. If you use Amazon, why are you bitching about Wal-Mart and its self-checkout option?

And why is Wal-Mart singled out for providing a self-check-out option? Hannaford grocery stores have self-checkout lanes. Target stores also have self-checkout options and even Whole Foods (gasp) is experimenting with a self-checkout option for its customers.

I went to Market Basket today. I only had a few items in my cart yet it took 11 minutes for me to get through the traditional checkout lane. Market Basket does not offer a self-checkout option (at least not at its Biddeford store.)

There is an old saying that time is money. If I have just a few items in my cart, I breeze through the self-checkout lane in less than three minutes, saving roughly eight minutes for me to do something else instead of waiting in line to buy a six-pack, a loaf of bread and a box of Twinkies.

To add insult to injury, I get on the Turnpike without stopping to pay a toll, simply by using my EZ pass device. I have to guess that EZ Pass is more profitable for our friends at the Maine Turnpike Authority because these devices decrease the need for human toll booth attendants.

When I was a young child, I remember that my father had a night job pumping gas at the Top Gas station in Saco. He would wash your windshield, check your oil, or inflate your tires upon request.

Today? There are no gas station attendants. Welcome to the jungle. At some point, the machines are going to become self-aware; and we all know what happens then. In the meantime: Thanks for reading! See you next week.

Originally published in Saco Bay News on May 13, 2021

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