Birthdays seem to be a good time to give thanks for making it through another year and possibly a time to look back at what you have seen and experienced during your life.
My birthday is approaching this month and I consider it to be one of those insignificant ones since it does not end in a zero or move me into a new age group for running. Somewhat sad to say, I have reached the age where I am usually in the oldest age group for the races.
Being a pastor, I have officiated at funerals for people much older than me, some in their 90s or even 100+ years old. As I conducted their services, I thought of how much change they had seen in their lifetimes.
Recently, to celebrate our wedding anniversary, we took a short trip to stay at a relatively new hotel that had been converted from an old building. It was interesting to view the old-style architecture. Also during our stay we saw business with the hotel was conducted in a more modern way. Both of those things caused me to look back on my days growing up in St. Louis
Technology was sure different back then. What technology? I remember every other Friday was a payday for my dad, and on those days the family loaded up in the car for it — a routine trip to the bank, which was probably five miles away. Our family, like many others, was there to cash the paycheck at the drive-through location.
Long lines usually greeted the families, and to help speed things up, there would be a person who would come to your car and pick up your check and deposit slip and walk it up to the bank. It wasn’t too bad sitting in line most of the time, but during the winter it could be rather trying.
From the bank it was to the local gas station, where an attendant would come out to pump your gas, wash your windshield, and check the oil if needed. You sat in the car and waited for them to perform their service. I never remember my dad using a credit card to pay. If he was short on cash, he would ask the attendant to put it “on the book” and he would pay later. No credit check was performed, there was a trust between the customer and the owner.
It doesn’t quite work like that now, does it? With online banking, you do not have to conduct business at the bank, you can use your phone. I still am not to that point where I stop going to the bank. My progress ends at checking my balances on the phone. Pumping your own gas is probably the only method available, although I did see a few stations offer to pump it for you during the COVID pandemic. Oh, there is a squeegee available if you want to wash your windshield.
Back to our hotel stay. I would consider the hotel a very modern place both in décor (it took a while to figure out how to use the water fixtures) and especially in their staffing. Transactions were conducted through your phone. The only time I saw the front desk staffed was at our time of check-in. That time was sent ahead by us via text. There was a number to call if the desk was empty. Breakfast time was self-serve which is not out of the ordinary. What was different is that there was no staff stationed nearby to check on the condition of the food. Some of the food was a little on the undesirable side.
When check-out time came it was all conducted over the phone with no paperwork involved. Did I enjoy the stay? Yes, but I do not think I am ready for the lack of staff and with most of the business being conducted by phone. I wonder what happens if you do not have a smartphone?
Times continue to change, and it will be interesting to see where things are in five or 10 years. Guess I better get more comfortable with my phone since my visits to the bank to conduct business will be outdated. Good or not so good, technology is the way of the future. Technology can be a wonderful thing, when it works.
Stephen Taylor is a Pleasant Hill resident and retired minister.