I Can Do It Myself!
I can do it myself!
I recall as a little kid the thrill whenever I declared my independence.
Even if the task was bigger than I was, I made my announcement loud and clear and followed it up with as many attempts as it took. I was determined.
Climbing up the sliding board.
Pouring milk on my cereal out of a big cardboard carton.
Tying my shoe laces.
I can do it myself!
But, as I got older, I did not mind if someone wanted to give me a helping hand.
May I help you with your groceries?
Can I open the door for you?
May I carry your bags?
I did not feel the offers of assistance were a reaction to any incompetence or weakness I was projecting. But instead, I viewed them as gestures of respect and politeness. Thank goodness chivalry was not dead.
And then came the do-it-yourself era. It tip-toed in on tiny feet. Sneaky. It disguised itself in a wrapper of convenience and expediency.
Pump your own gas. No need to wait for an attendant. Grab ahold of that nozzle and fill ‘er up. You can even pay at the pump! As a side note my late mother declared she would never pump her own gas. And she never did. Perhaps she recognized the slippery slope of self-serve. Hmm-mm New Jersey still prefers to have gas station attendants. I guess Mom would have needed to go to New Jersey for her gas.
Self-serve frozen yogurt bars became a fad. What fun! Choose your cup size. Pull down on the handle and let the swirl flow. Layer on your own toppings. Now this was brilliant marketing concept. You always put on more toppings than you should have. The price was determined by weight. Who paid attention to the fact that gummy bears weighed more than chocolate sprinkles? Oh well, it all tasted good.
And then more technology and touch pads greased the skids. Faster. Easier. Computers were everywhere.
ATM’s invited us to do our own banking, at any time. Poof! Gone were the tiny bank books in which dutiful tellers wrote down deposits and withdrawals. Skip the friendly bank chats. Forget the lollipops. No more dog biscuits for Fido. A wad of cash or a thin receipt spit out of an anonymous, cold, metal slot and off you went. 24/7 access. Open on holidays.
Self-check-out options in grocery stores and drug store started to erase many of the traditional clerk operated lines. There was reduced waiting which meant no time to leaf through the tabloids on the nearby magazine racks. Take charge yourself. Scan it. Weigh it. Bag it. Pay for it. And go! No interaction with a store clerk was required. You just do-it-yourself. Stores benefited from less staff. You were the consumer AND the check- out clerk.
A need for speed was also taking over.
Get yourself an E-Z Pass. A tiny white plastic device attached to your windshield allowed you to travel on toll roads without cash. Set up an account, put some money in it, and drive on through the designated lane without stopping—or even putting down your window! More EZ Pass lanes started to appeared until finally the toll both workers were dinosaurs.
Exercise when you wanted. No worry about gym hours. You could have a Peloton bike delivered to your house. Make friends with your buff on-line instructor. He or she will be happy to encourage you from a screen at any time of day. Who cares if you haven’t washed your hair or shaved your legs. The interaction is impersonal.
Then, came the pandemic and some of these contact-less options worked in our favor. We could get food, money, gas and still exercise without the risk of infection. There was no need to talk to anyone or even get close. We could do-it-ourselves. Perhaps the universe had been conditioning us for this impending plague.
But wait a minute. We are starting to see light at the end of the Covid-19 tunnel. And yet, we have layered on more do-it-yourself stuff.
Bear with us. Staff shortage. The sign on the door announces an appeal to your sympathy.
Seat yourself in the restaurant. Find your own table. Pull up the menu on your phone. There is no printed menu. Your server provides less service. Deal with it.
Now you may say that I sound old and cranky. Well, remember I have one foot stuck in my 1950’s cement foundation and the other one is flailing in free fall in the technology era.
Think about it. Like all species, we evolve. I DO walk upright and can communicate with words, not pictures. I am trying to keep up. I use Pay Pal and Venmo for my book sales. I post on my website. Apple Wallet guards my boarding pass. On-line shopping is doable as well as Open Table for dining reservations. I can do-it-myself! But come on! What is the end game?
I recently got on a plane and took a trip outside of my zip code. It was finally time to break free. Even if I did have to wear a mask.
I was glad I could navigate the self-check-in kiosk at the airport and lift my own luggage on to the scale. Liquid carry-on restrictions were still in place so I purchased travel size supplies. Slip-on shoes prevented me from holding up the TSA line. I did not wear clunky jewelry that would set off the alarm. I also chose not to wear a bra with underwire, just in case.
The flight attendant stood at the front of the cabin when I entered and said hello. She looked annoyed that I was getting on. I found my own seat and put my carry-on in the overhead bin. I knew there were no longer any pillows or blankets so I made sure I had a jacket and neck pillow. I can do it myself!
On my economy airline flight, gone were the little complimentary bags of peanuts or pretzels and a free plastic cup of water. An announcement was made that a limited assortment of pre-packaged snacks could be purchased from the small menu in the seat pocket and paid with gold bouillons. I brought my own peanut butter crackers.
Towards the end of the flight, a request was made on the PA system to help out the flight attendants. The robotic voice urged all passengers to look all around their seats and gather up all trash and to put it in the Hefty bags that were being carried down the aisles by the emotionless flight attendants.
Also, a reminder was made to cross our seat belts neatly on the seat when we exited and pull down the window shades to help out the flight attendants prepare the cabin for the next flight. I really was waiting for a final request from the cockpit for assistance to land the plane. I was ready to volunteer. Surely my experience with a video airplane simulator at the boardwalk arcade could second for co-pilot experience.
And there it was. Evaporated in my lifetime. No longer were there cabin smoking sections for nervous travelers. Forget the free meals on tiny plastic trays with multiple compartments. No more unlimited nuts and pretzels and tiny plastic wings for juvenile travelers. Bye-bye warm blankets and small pillows with disposable gauze covers. Dream on for free headsets and ample leg room. Where did it all go? Was there a survey that I missed?
Once I got to my lovely hotel, I was informed that housekeeping service was not available due to Covid restrictions and lack of staff. Now I am not a gal that requires many frills. I rarely treat myself to luxury and my definition of luxury certainly does not align with the Kardashians.
But… for beaucoup dollars a night I did not expect to make up our king-size bed every morning. I did not enjoy reminding my husband to put his wet towels on the hook until I gathered enough to put in a plastic bag to leave outside of our room and then notify the front desk that I needed fresh towels. My husband was annoyed when I asked him to please wash out his own toothpaste saliva in the sink as I wiped down the vanity each morning.
And worst of all, we had to ration the two French milled bath soap bars, which were each the size of a Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano cookie.
Oh, how I longed for my nightly tiny gold foil wrapped chocolate treat on my pillow.
So here we have it. I am on planet do-it-yourself. The predictable wave of progress continues to roll in. But this time, I take special note because I have more time on the other side of the curve. My children mock me. My grandkids do not know the difference and find my commentary curious. There is no going back. The horse is out of the barn. Or have the service workers left the job?
I just hope a few service perks remain in my lifetime. I will be 70 in November. I feel age needs to have some rewards to offset the new aches and pains and increased prescription drugs in my medicine cabinet.
I can do-it-myself! But do I want to?
How about you? I would love to hear from you. A personal note would be nice. But, stamps are expensive and the mail is slow—due to cutbacks. At least that is the excuse. So, send me an email. That way, you don’t have to worry about your penmanship!
I am younger so I do not remember a lot of these things that you talk about, but some of it sounds quite lovely. Blankets and leg room on planes? Unlimited pretzels? Can we start a petition?
While I do enjoy not having to go to the bank, I am rarely a fan of self checkout. At walmart it’s ok maybe, but at the grocery store when I have much more than the self checkout line can handle without the machine yelling at me because there is only one regular line open—it’s just not cool.
I think a lot of the humanizing qualities of our world has been brought back to me through yoga and dance classes. I no longer drive to work every day, but I do drive to the dance studio twice a week for fitness, friends, and fun. I think it’s important to have something that roots you in your community and in reality—I hope painting does that for you!! And I certainly hope some of your favorite service amenities come back, because let’s face it-we all want to relax and be “pampered” sometimes without having to go to a spa.
Thank you Ashley for your comment. I specifically appreciate yours because some of what I wrote is generational as you pointed out. But there is a common human thread that we all share. I love my yoga classes and was so anxious to get back to them when I felt it was safe for me. I missed my yoga friends more than I realized. The sharing of a quiet studio was a safe place for me. My writing is my outlet. It brings me personal satisfaction and hopefully allows me to connect to strangers and friends alike. I am not a spa person. So my pampered moments are really quite basic. A nice meal prepared by someone else and presented in a visually pleasing way. A special moment with nature with a like-minded person. The beach. I do not require much, but I do not want to constantly be asked for more.
Thanks again for taking the time to comment!
Oh Kim, could I ever relate to this writing of yours. I feel we are dehumanizing society with all the technical advances. When I retired many years ago a patient gave me a plaque that reads” There is more to life than increasing its speed” Gandhi. I still have it in my kitchen garden window to remind myself to slow down, breathe deeply and remember what is truly important which is time spent with other loved ones, not cleaning up or clearing out or even weeding sometimes! Thank you for this. I have not flown for 22 years and not sure I will know how should I decide to go somewhere! My revolt to technology is not having a “smart phone” and texting. I have a flip, pay as you go phone to speak with caregiver’s of mom, doctor’s offices and siblings for short calls. After 30 years of answering phones for physician offices, once I retired I did not wish to jump every time the phone rang, so having a phone with me was not an option I wanted until I became mom’s primary caregiver. Thanks for this. Hugs. Carol Sue
Thank you for responding Carol Sue and for being so honest. I really like the Gandhi quote. The further I get down the timeline the slower I want to travel.It sounds like you have clearly put a stake in the ground to live your life on your terms. Good for you! I believe our shared childhood experiences laid the groundwork for an appreciation of simplicity and authenticity. You and I have remarked many times how lucky we were. It takes effort to not get swept up in the fast currents that swirl around us. I wish you well and thank your for being a loyal reader.