The Unbeatable Human Touch

My car is like a second home.  I can leave home and still do everything except go to the bathroom—though I’m sure Detroit is working on that one. In my car I can check e-mail on my PDA, have a conference call, and pick up a no-foam skim latte.  I have my makeup application timed to two full stoplights.  And I’m not the only one, of course.  I’ve seen people reading, shaving, even changing their clothes while driving!

And when I bank from my car, which I often do, and I see the twin driveways marked “ATM” and “TELLER,” it’s a no-brainer.  I’m a teller kind of gal.

I remember when ATMs first appeared in the early 80s.  And along with everyone else, I was smitten at first with this round-the-clock money-spitter.  There’s no question that all of our Jetsons-like technology is convenient, but I have to wonder—in the process of making things easier, have we lost something of real value?

I think we have.  What we’ve lost is each other.

The ability to get through ever-larger portions of the day without interacting with another person actually appeals to some people.  Not to me.  There is no substitute for the human touch.  Nothing replaces a genuine smile.  There’s no better way to communicate and connect than looking into someone’s eyes.

A friend of mine discovered this recently when she approached the drive-up lanes to make her weekly deposit.  Usually she pulls to the right and allows the ATM to click and whirr its way through her transaction.  But this time, on a whim, she pulled left into the teller lane instead.

“Welcome to First Community Bank,” said a voice.  She looked up to see a handsome teller, his smile lighting up the monitor screen.  “What can I do for you today?”

Several things come to mind, she thought.  There were no cars behind her, so they chatted amiably for a bit.  The deposit got itself made, as always, but my friend also found herself making a human connection.  Now she actually looks forward to every Tuesday afternoon and what had once been a mundane, whirring and clicking task, just for that momentary connection to a smiling and familiar face.

“Good to see you again,” he always says at the end of the transaction—and she says the same, because it’s true.  And off to her right, as she pulls away, she hears the efficient convenience of the ATM, beeping someone else goodbye.

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