Progress in a modern world

Remember when there were conductors on every bus or tram, and they all carried a little gadget hanging round there
Opinion

Remember when there were conductors on every bus or tram, and they all carried a little gadget hanging round there neck that they used to punch a hole in one of the bundle of tickets they held in their left hand? I can still hear the “ting” that gadget made to this day, yet they must have departed this earth all of fifty years ago. Nowadays we don’t have conductors or their machines at all, instead we get something called Myki, which apparently has cost us billions of dollars to get working, and in the place of the conductors we now have a form of gestapo, whose only aim in life is to catch us not using our Myki cards properly, so they can slap us with horrendous fines.

I would love to be able to compare the price of Myki, (so far!), to the cost of wages, uniforms and machines that went ‘ting’, for the conductors, who served us so well. I wouldn’t mind betting the conductors would win, hands down, and we’d all be much happier little travellers too!

And this is called ‘progress’!

I remember when I was very young, I went each week with my mother, to the local grocer’s store, where she would sit on a chair at the counter telling the assistant serving her what she required, and he would fetch each item for her, stacking them on the counter ready for packing and jotting down the prices as he went. Then supermarkets were invented and suddenly we had to wander from aisle to aisle looking for what we wanted ourselves before we took it all to the ‘checkout’ to find out how much it was going to cost us. In the meantime, the one assistant per customer we had always been used to, (plus the polite way they dealt with us), now became a few young kids with little or no experience in retail, most of them only working there until they found something better. They have little notion of dealing politely with a customer, but they meant the supermarket could employ a lot less staff, saving them, (and possibly us), millions of dollars a year, but at considerable cost in pleasure and retail satisfaction!

And this is called ‘progress’!

It’s much the same in the world of motoring. I remember as if it was yesterday driving into any garage for fuel, to be greeted by a chap or a girl in a smart company uniform, a wet sponge in one hand and a duster in the other, with which they quickly wiped over my windscreen, before they’d check my tyre pressure, ready for the next part of my journey. Meanwhile, another staff member would be filling my fuel tank for me, after which he would check to see if I needed a top-up of engine oil or water in the radiator. I and any other customers being served just sat in our cars and watched it all happen, until one of the attendants told me what I owed and I gave him the necessary cash. He/she would take the money into the building and return with a receipt and any required change, and I would be on my way again, happy and well satisfied! Now I do it all myself, filling, checking and paying, and continuing my journey most likely with an insect speckled windscreen, low oil in the sump and a couple of softish tyres on the road!

And this is called ‘progress’!

OK, I appreciate that everything moves at a much faster rate today, and that all the above services would mean things being somewhat dearer than they are now, but I’m afraid the ‘modern ways’ cost us something else, something very valuable – our quality of life! Add to that the number of simple jobs that have been lost through all this efficiency and I’d have to say yet again – this is called ‘progress’?

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  1. Ronin  

    I agree. I believe the bulk of any savings has gone to company profits. I would much rather pay a little more to experience personal service. But while the corporates push for ever increasing profits (even in a non-inflationary environment) that isn’t going to happen, nor are the additional jobs it would encourage.

    It seems personal service is now the reserve of the wealthy, not the embattled middle class!

  2. Val  

    I love how you wrote this and yes I am old enough to recall it all nostalgically. I still miss conductors and confess to slight anxiety any time I go interstate and have to navigate the whole Myki card thing. I always think of the conductors then and how easy it was they the just came around and smiled and punched our ticket. And being able to hop on the tram with no prior arrangement and just buy a ticket.

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