Today I went to buy gasoline on my lunch hour, pumped the foul liquid, and went inside to pay. There are two registers there, and one had a long line of Downs Syndrome patients who had been bussed in (for what, I wondered? Snacks?) and the other had a single gentleman. Of course, I stepped in line behind him.
After waiting a while I looked behind me - there was a long line. By the time I got to the register the mentally handicapped had been served, and all but two of the folks behind me had gone to that line and been served as well. Was I the victim of a lazy clerk?
No. I was the victim of technology.
If hating lottery tickets makes me a ludddite, then call me a luddite. The lottery is a loser's game, as the odds of buying a ticket and winning the jackpot are only slightly better than finding a winning ticket on the ground (and of course you stat majors will prove me wrong).
The ads say "if you don't play you can't win" but my thinking is if you don't play you can't lose. Well, unless you get behind some loser buying lottery tickets. The machine takes forever to handshake with the state's central mainframe that's not only trying to process lottery tickets, it may be figuring out food stamps for the poor and in some states, running license plate numbers for the police. Getting behind someone buying lottery tickets almost assures you that you'll be late back to work.
The solution would be easy - automate the tickets completely. Have a machine similar to a soda machine with a slot for bills and a keypad where you could enter your losing number, or press a key to have the machine pick a random losing number for you. Why isn't this implemented? Because those controlling and paying for the present technology aren't the ones being inconvenienced.
Of course, the guy bought his lottery tickets on credit. The biggest lie on television isn't the fictional CSI, but that Visa commercial where everyone zips through the line with their credit card and someone with cash slows everything down. That commercial would be illegal in Britain, where they may be as mad as mad dogs but have more sense than my countrymen do and have outlawed such dishonest behavior.
More wait! Again, it's slow because it's not to the benefit of the card companies to have more and faster servers, the poor sap running the register is the one to face the wrath of the bipolar woman waiting in line with her food stamp card.
The old technology was far better. You handed your card to the cashier, who put a slip that consisted of a slice of carbon paper sandwiched between two pieces of paper on the gizmo, then moved the lever back and forward. Then you sign the slip and it takes no longer than cash. But since the credit card companies save money this way, they're not about to go back to the old tech.
Food Stamp Cards
These are bad for the same reason as credit cards - the mainframe holding the database is too slow and the connection is too slow.
The old technology was far better. They gave books of food coupons to the needy, who used them like money, with the single caveat that they could only use them for uncooked edibles. They were as fast as cash.
The downside to them was that the needy would sell them for fifty cents on the dollar so they could buy drugs, guns, hookers, soap, shampoo, clothing, cigarettes, lottery tickets, and all the other things a poor person needs that can't be easily eaten.
Now they just trade the whole card, including its PIN number, for crack. In the neighborhoods the poor live in, crack is better than cash for almost any purchase!
Those damned things are even slower than credit cards. Do they run off a 300 baud modem? Jees! Pity the fool who gets behind someone in line paying for his phone card and lottery tickets with a credit card! To make matters worse, they usually mention the phone card at the end of the transaction, making your wait in line longer.
And again, better tech could rescue the situation. All they need is a good broadband connection and more servers. But it would only benefit the people actually using the technology, rather than those who are profiting from its use.
Fast Food Drivethroughs
Speaking of Down's Syndrome, there are obviously some engineers out there who make Forest Gump look like a genius by comparison. One of them designed the drive-through at the McDonalds on Sixth and South Grand. The line splits in two for ordering, and then back to a single line for payment and delivery.
Since they put the damned thing in the lines are twice as slow. The ordering is seldom what slows the line down, it's payment and delivery. When you finally get there to pay, they invariably try to charge you the wrong amount because you're being charged for what the guy at the other kiosk ordered. Then they give you the wrong food. That makes it even slower because everyone has now learned that rather than just driving off you need to look in the bag to see if you actually got what you paid for.
Why do they call it "fast food" when it's by no means fast by any definition of the word, and it's barely food? The upside is a lot of people have foregone the drivethrough altogether and now go inside because it's faster! I guess this is a good thing, because drive-throughs contribute to global warming.
And at this particulat McDonald's, instead of the kiosk having slide shows of pictures of "food" with your order and its price printed as you order it, you get a DOS error message saying that Windows failed to load some module or another.
In my old K5 article Useful Dead Technologies I bemoaned the loss of useful old but dead tech, including knobs on car radios, flat cotton shoelaces, and properly constructed sandwiches. Happily the volume knob has made a comeback, and my new pair of shoes have flat cotton laces. But you still can't eat a commercial sandwich without making a mess!
One new thing that makes things faster!
They outlawed smoking in bars here in Illinois, despite the fact that nine out of ten drinkers smoke. This gets my beer poured much faster, because the bars are nowhere near as crowded as they used to be. Everyone is drinking at home now, which cuts down on drunk driving accidents... well, maybe not. The Beer Run hasn't been obsoleted yet. When are they going to serve beer down the intarweb's pipes? Can't they pour anything but bits down them?