The Loss of Human Interaction

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Following a fun evening at Adventureland with our niece’s baby, Mimi, we decided to stop at the local McDonald’s to get some burgers, Chicken McNuggets and fries. We had attended the “Helping Hands” charity event and spent a couple of hours doing everything five-year old’s like to do at amusement parks.

We accompanied her on the kiddie rides we could fit on, like the spinning teacups and the Merry-Go-Round, and taking her on the Mystery Mansion ride, which in retrospect was a mistake as it scared the bejeezus out of her. She enjoyed the heights of the Ferris Wheel and the rest of the small rides intended for the kiddies. Mimi even won a prize on one of those Midway-type games shooting a water gun at a target. All in all, it was a fun evening for a good cause.

With flashing lights and music assaulting their senses upon arrival, kids like Mimi gravitate immediately to the rides and attractions. Since this was a charity event, however, free food was included in the price of admission. By the time Mimi was hungry, the food lines were enormous.

Unfortunately, hungry kids only see people walking around with food, not the people waiting on the line for the food. Balancing stacks of chicken fingers, burgers, hot dogs, and pizza like circus performers, people quickly navigated to an open table before their “Jenga” towers fell. Facing what amounted to at least a 20- to 30-minute wait, we opted to cut our losses and head to Mickey D’s.

With Mimi fading fast in the back seat, we decided to hit the drive-through and head home with our loot, only to be rebuked upon arrival. The drive-through was packed. I made an executive decision to go inside and order.

Standing at the counter in front of two unattended cash registers, I waited for a counter person to take my order, but no one ever came. After a few minutes, I waived down someone who was grabbing food for another customer standing next to the “Pick Up Orders” sign at another counter.

A delightful young lady came over to me, and cheerfully said, “Did you place your order yet, sir?” Puzzled, I replied that no one had taken my order yet. She then pointed to the three kiosk terminals behind me and told me I could use the terminals to place my order. Feeling a little foolish at not knowing the new protocol of fast food establishments, I asked her if I was being forced use the terminals, or if she could just take my order like in the old days?

She laughed and was happy to take my order. When she finished pressing all the buttons representing two quarter-pounders, fries and 10-piece nuggets and told me my order came to $18.28, I handed her a $20 bill and joked, “Have you ever seen one of these before?” She laughed even harder, and when she opened the register, she was hoping they had coins in it (they did). I understand that today’s society is moving further and further away from human interaction, thanks in part to technology. For most fast-food restaurants, you don’t even need to leave the house. You can download their app, place your order from your phone, and have it delivered. Very convenient, I guess, but how much faster does fast food need to be?

Is it necessary to have customers that come to your restaurant not have any human contact with your staff? How much time am I saving by standing in front of a machine and using a touch screen to order my Big Mac and fries?

My exchange with the kid behind the counter was pleasant and efficient. After bringing me my order, she smiled and thanked me for choosing McDonald’s. You know what? I think she really enjoyed some old-fashioned human interaction.

I know I did.

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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