December 7, 2005

Having the Usual

Today was a special day in my life. When I made my occasional morning stop at Sizzling Express on 23rd Street for a muffin and a smoothie, I was asked my the lady behind the counter, "Hawaiian smoothie?" to which I nodded in affirmation. So now, I have one more place I can include on my "places who already know what I'm getting" list.

At my old job, whenever I went out to lunch with my boss, we always ate at the same place. And no matter who the server was, they didn't need to bother with menus because they already knew what request to send to the kitchen.

People used to know their neighbors. Store owners knew their customers. Strangers were strangers because those were those few people in a community that were unfamiliar. Now, the few are the people you actually do know. And sometimes even these people can be thought of as strangers.

Many advances have been made in the past couple decades. Socially, politically, medically, and technologically, we have seen many gains. However, there have been costs as well. The greatest of these, I believe, is the diminished value of human relationships. This is obviously not a deliberate action, but simply a by-product of our current society. We grab some fast food for dinner, stop by the big box store for personal items, have our cars serviced at centers where we are merely a number, buy groceries with self checkout, and buy things online to avoid crowds at the mall just to rush home and watch Must See TV. Have things become more convenient? Definitely. But at what cost?

Generally speaking, who gets the best service anywhere you go? The answer is simple. It's those who know with whom they are dealing. You get better service if you know your mechanic's name. If you know your pharmacist name. If you know the server at your restaurant. If you know your kid's teacher. If you know the guy hiring.

Nowadays, you need to make an active effort to get to know people outside your tight knit circle. The benefit of this is one of those things whose value cannot be given a dollar amount. And maybe, just maybe, places where you can have the usual, whatever that "usual" might be, will not be a rarity but the norm.

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