Does anybody remember “The Andy Griffith Show?”
Watching that half-hour of pure, simple, black-and-white bliss became not only a staple of my childhood, but also one of the things I looked forward to most after a rousing day of learning about the letter ‘R’ in Kindergarten. In fact, it was the greatest show I remember watching back then, second only to “Press Your Luck,” because it’s hard to beat the sounds of “No whammies!” and “Big money!”
Those of you at all familiar with the band Rascal Flatts may know something of Andy Griffith. Although I do not profess to be an expert on country music, I do know their song “Mayberry,” which, correctly or incorrectly, I attribute to Andy Griffith’s Podunk town.
The song is about missing the good old days, like the ones that your parents prattle on and on about – the ones where they climbed fifteen miles uphill both ways just to get a book from the library. A time when there were no cell phones, no MP3 players, and certainly no internet.
As comfortable as life is, I find myself in agreement with many adults that life is becoming just a little bit too advanced.
“But Ross, how is that possible?” you ask. “Does that mean you’d want to give up your iPod and go back to the phonograph, or – gasp! – radio?”
Hell no. But, without a doubt, we are becoming too advanced for our own good. Take, for example, McDonald’s. The oh-so-delicious fast food chain has been promoting a new kind of fast-food ordering technique. McDonald’s has now created a central headquarters from which a team of specially trained order-takers will process your purchase from anywhere in the country.
In other words, pretend you are at a McDonald’s drive-thru here in Rochester and order the number two value meal with a large fry and drink. According to The New York Times, the person you are speaking to over the drive-thru intercom is not a mere thirty feet away inside the building – they are roughly 2,770 miles away in the California town of Santa Maria, outside Los Angeles. They, in turn, relay your order to the McDonald’s you are currently at and you drive up to the window to get your two cheeseburgers, all while being blissfully unaware that your purchase was a national transaction.
McDonald’s scheme, which is currently in the testing phase but considering expansion, is designed to reduce labor costs and expedite the order system, saving precious seconds that can be used to obtain more revenue. But doesn’t that strike you as just a bit over-the-top?
McDonald’s plan is the next domino in the long chain of convenience. And once this one gets knocked over, what’s next? McDonald’s home delivery? Could there be one day far in the future – and I pray to God that this never, ever happens – when McDonald’s could instantly teleport a Big Mac into your kitchen?
I remember the invention of On-Star and how it was meant to become the greatest thing to happen to driving a car since the installation of the CD player, but I was never a fan. What’s the fun in knowing that you won’t get lost?
If I have to stop at a general store in Hicksville, Kan., just to find out how to get to Nowheresville, Ga., then so be it. I’d rather get lost and have some face-to-face interaction than have some voice tell me what to do.
Maybe it does not matter. These new techniques improve accuracy, create convenience and save money. But what’s the point of being human if we swear by technology? What our advancements indicate is the overwhelming urge for perfection. But before we go leaping into a world out of an Asimov novel, let’s step back and think of Mayberry, where life is simple, where Barney Fife – God bless him – is acting like an idiot and where we order our McNuggets from incompetent, overworked teenagers who reek of meat – not an office.
Brenneman can be reached