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April 10, 2001

A public radio commentary

I'm fascinated by experiences made possible by technology - things never felt or seen before the 20th century. I like feeling the incredible acceleration of a jet. Or, seeing rows of mass produced objects - miles of things identical in shape, size, and color. It doesn't matter to me if its a warehouse of bathtubs or ball bearings, I get a thrill out of seeing them repeat. Not too long ago technology gave me a new experience, a humbling one, which never could have happened even twenty years ago.

It happened before on-line bookstores were popular. Back in those days you had the bookstore order a book and then you stopped by and picked it up. It's something I did so often I couldn't even keep track of all my orders.

One day, in this ancient time, I went to the bookstore to browse, first stopping at the coffee shop to get a bagel.

Now I'm standing in line, waiting to order and my blood sugar is extraordinary low. And I'm extraordinary grumpy because the guy behind the corner is talking on the telephone. Now I believe if you're behind a counter you should provide service especially to me when my blood sugar is low. I was about to find his manager when I noticed he had a book in front of him. He opened the book and said "The book you ordered is in, please pick it up at your convenience."

I realize now this isn't his fault, it's the managements: They shouldn't be having the coffee guy call people about books especially when I need a bagel.

Finally he does turn to me and we do this "Green Eggs and Ham" thing. I say I want a bagel. He says would you like cream cheese? No, I would not like cream cheese. Would you like it cut? No, I would not like it cut. Would you like it on a plate? No, I would not like it on a plate I would like you to hand it directly to me so I can pound it on the escalator before I faint from low blood sugar. Then I got in line to buy my books and here is where technology enters. This story would not be possible without it.

I pulled out my cell phone and called my answering machine. I'm always calling my machine because my friends can never get their lives in order; so I just say "Look, call my machine, I'll check it all the time." And what do you think I hear? I hear the bagel man say: "Mr. Hammack, the book your ordered is in. Please pick it up at your convenience."

I walked back upstairs and quietly got my book.

Copyright 2001 William S. Hammack Enterprises