Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I am starting to wonder what we have lost. I wouldn’t really know that anything was around to be lost without my father but that extra generation back in time gives me periodic images of the past I could have known. For instance, his company was previously his father’s company and the company bank has to my knowledge always been the same bank on the same main street of the same town in which my father was born. The bank has changed names and people have retired and moved on but every person who works at the bank knows his name. While they process and file things for him they chit chat with him and keep track of each other’s lives in a neighborly way. They are known to each other and they treat each other as such.

My primary bank is an online bank. There is no store front. I will never see a human when I make a transaction. This brings with it a tremendous amount of convenience. I never have to rush to the bank before it closes as my father often does. I can transfer money at midnight. I can send money to most other humans I am required to pay with a few clicks and their routing number. I can even fill out a form and have them send my antiquated landlady who doesn’t own a computer a paper check. But even when I was a child living in a tiny town with a small town bank account I was never known by name until my number was somehow plugged into a machine and my name popped up on a screen.

My other example is travel. Once upon a time, air travel was a big deal. Humans dressed in their best when they moved from one side of the country to the other and people used travel agents to help them plan their journey. Think about it…who uses travel agents anymore? At this point I think people traveling in a large group and old people….my dad. If I need a flight to someplace I check Kayak. If I need a place to stay or a car…kayak. I can organize everything on one website, make my purchase using my online bank and viola! I am going on a vacation. Then for things to do I just search online until I get a list of restaurants and ratings. Ditto for museums, parks…whatever. I can even find coupons and discounts. All from the comfort of my couch. The most outside human influence comes via the for all intents and purposes anonymous ratings and reviews that visitors have given to attractions. But look at the convenience.

You might not get it from his appearance but Dad is something of a world traveler. He has been to Africa, Asia and Europe and I swear I will get him to South America with me before we die. He has always booked travel through the same agency. When he tells them about a trip they give him the cheapest deal and the most convenient. They also help him figure out a car and places he wants to go or see while he is there based on personal recommendations from their own visits, other customers and what they know of my father’s personal tastes. When he called them from Texas because his passport got messed up and he couldn’t make it to HN…they were on it. Dad called me the other day to tell me that after 50 jillion years, his travel agent was closing. They called him personally to tell him. Read that sentence again. They called him to tell him they were closing. So the last time he booked travel I logged on to his computer in PA from my computer in MA so that he could watch me and learn how to book travel online….which isn’t nearly the same thing.