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Rite of passage: Self-serve or not

I have a question: Is self-serve serving us well?

If you’ve gone shopping lately, you’ve probably noticed that the number of human-type persons who operate a cash register is diminishing. Every week, it seems there’s one more self-checkout lane. Last week there were two, this week there are three and by the time summer is over, there won’t be a checkout lane with a human employee anywhere in sight. Somehow, I don’t think I’m saving much money doing all of the work myself.

You probably know that this do-it-yourself idea began with the gasoline stations. Back in the day, you would drive in, and a nice guy came running out and ask cheerfully, “How much would you like?” While he put in the proper amount of gasoline, he washed your windows, checked your oil and gave you a massage and a free road map. But now, I have to haul my size 11/12 feet out of the car and walk around hunting for the gas cap. There should be a law that all gas tanks fill up on the same side of the car.

After I slide my credit card, the pump wants to give me an IQ test. “What is your zip code?”

“I don’t know; I only use email.”

“Would you like your car washed?”

“No, I just came in to get gas.”

“Is this a debit or credit card?”

“You tell me. You’re way smarter than I am.”

“You know that for only an extra 79 cents, you can buy yourself a soft drink the size of Texas.”

“Remember? I just came in to get gas.”

By now, the gas is flowing, and the fumes are permeating my clothes. It never fails. The last drop ends up on your hands, and no matter how hard you scrub, the smell will not come off. For the rest of the day, everyone knows you visited the gas station.

Only two states have said no to this self-service pump foolishness: Oregon and New Jersey. I’ve never visited either one, but I take off my hat to them. I hear the gas stations there have employees who actually put in your gas for you.

Now that the grocery industry has followed suit in the self-serve mode, I wonder what I’ll be asked to do next. Will I have to self-stock the shelves?

“Pardon me, can you tell me where to find the canned corn?”

“You’ll have to go to the back, open a case and stock the shelves on aisle seven.” As I stock the shelves, I feel a tap on the shoulder. A manager-looking type says, “We need a clean-up on aisle five.”

So I ask again, are the changes really so good? What can we expect next, self-fill dentistry? Or self-serve restaurants where you have to go to the kitchen, cook your own food, serve yourself, clear off your own table, do your own dishes and pay $20 for the privilege of using the place?

I already have a place like that. It’s called home.

I realize we’re moving toward a more automated world, but I do miss human interaction. I liked the days when I could ask the gas station attendant, “How’s your day going?” and become his friend. The people at the grocery store knew my name and my parents’ names. We always had meaningful conversations. They were glad we came and couldn’t wait for us to return. The butcher knew what cuts of meat we liked. The doctor came to our home, and the pastor was a man who walked out life alongside us.

Yes, even churches are changing these days. In many of them, the pastor preaches from a faraway location, and the church projects his image on a big screen. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but I do miss the human element of seeing God’s man stand before me and feeling his passion as he proclaims God’s Word.

I know one thing: Jesus is in the business of personal touch. He came to this Earth to walk among His children; He died on a cross to save His people. And the church was established to disciple people. Yes, the Gospel always has an element of the personal touch.

We used to sing the old gospel hymn “He Touched Me.” “He touched me, ohhhhh He touched me. And oh, the joy that floods my soul.” Because of what He has done for me, I want to share with others. But that’s hard to do when you’re operating a scanner.

We don’t need another self-checkout line; we need to be the church that touches everyone who passes by.

Walker Moore

Author: Walker Moore

View more articles by Walker Moore.

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