November 20th, 2004

letters

But the *computer* needs it...

I saw generations collide earlier this morning when the man in front of me at Wal-Mart paid with a check. The clerk asked for a phone number and the old man said that he didn't have one. Silence followed. The four Wal-Mart employees in the area were stunned. The red-vested customer service manager asked about a cell phone. The old man said that he didn't have one of those either. "Old fashioned," he called himself. And another round of silence commenced among the 20-something workers.

For a moment, I thought the world might just skid off its axis. The computer, by golly, said that it needed a phone number before it could accept a check. The computer -- the thing which seemingly dictates everything we do -- wanted the one piece of information that, for this old man, didn't exist. For a few moments, these kids would have had better luck trying to cook a turkey with a Lite Brite than figure out what to do. Finally, a guy standing nearby offered his number as a substitute. The computer was satisfied. The employees were relieved. The world resumed its rotation.
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