24 October 2008

Smarties or Dum Dums

We all have our favorite way-back-when story. It is universal human nature to fondly remember the past as much better than the present. Generally these back-in-my-day stories revolve around a time when life was somehow better, slower, more personal or just simply happier.  Even my four-year-old son enjoys reminiscing about his days using the tiny green vinyl baby spoon. It was a favorite and on occasion we pull it out and enjoy a blueberry yogurt in small baby-size bites. The scant amount of yogurt held by the spoon makes snack time go on for what seems like forever and all the while we talk about the good ‘ole days of needing a baby spoon.

One of my fondest childhood memories is going to the bank on Saturday mornings with my father. The purpose of our weekly pilgrimage was to deposit his paycheck. I would fill out the deposit slip and he would ask me how much money we should keep back. I would always answer,  “Do you think five dollars will do it?” He would always respond, “Yep, I think that’ll do it.” Marty, the woman at the counter, whose family knew my family, would ask if I wanted Smarties candy or Dum Dum suckers. I would tell her Dum Dums and then ask for the Smarties just in case the Dum Dums held true to their name. She always laughed heartily even though I used the same ploy each week for double candy allotment.

I am sorry to say that such rituals have gone the way of the 8-track tape. My paycheck is neatly deposited electronically in the spirit of saving time and money. My earnings now magically appear in our bank account and I don’t get to take our son to the bank on Saturday mornings. He misses filling out deposit slips, watching the jovial conversations among friends doing business, the subtleties of town gossip, and he misses out on Smarties and Dum Dums.

If I have a problem with my electronic deposit, I can no longer call Marty, down at the bank to discuss the issue. Rather, I dial a number and get an automated machine giving me all the automated selections under the sun except the one that I need. No matter how loudly I call into the phone or punch the appropriate sequence of buttons, all I get is a unisex voice that says, “I’m sorry, I did not understand your selection, please try again.” Well, of course you did not understand my selection. My selection is personal. It is unique. I want someone who can empathize with my current plight. I want someone who can say, “I’m so sorry this happened and I’ll see to it personally that the situation is resolved and by the way how is your mother’s hip doing from the surgery last week?”

Sure, it takes more time and effort for such a personal approach and there are those who tell us that money is saved through automated mechanisms such as the one that deposits my paycheck.  I am wondering if the trade-off is worth the loss of a slower and more personal world.

If you’re ever fortunate enough to get a Dum Dum sucker from the bank, spend an hour savoring the whole thing until it makes the roof of your mouth raw…but be sure to get the Smarties, too, just in case. 

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