‘Tis the wave of the future, unfortunately the future is now.
The incident I’m about to relay happened in my hometown of Rochester, NY, however, it could be Anyplace, USA.
As I’ve done for years when I journey into the city (Rochester, not NYC), I always try, if convenient, to park at one particular lot.
I’ve gotten to know the parking attendants fairly well as I’d become a regular customer. Bob and Cynthia (not their real names) were both part-time attendants since their company had wanted to dispense with employee benefits.
Bob was a senior who lived on his Social Security, a small pension, and 25 hours (down from 40) of wage income per week.
Since his wife is infirm and couldn’t work and he only lived two blocks from the parking lot, it seemed like the perfect job. It was financially tight, but somehow Bob made it work.
Cynthia, on the other hand, was a high school dropout and a single mother. She made the rounds as a waitress, a fast food server, and Walmart greeter, but nothing seemed to work out.
Either the hours were wrong for a single mother, or the job requirements were not clearly stated (Cynthia’s excuse.)
Parking lot attendant, however, was right up her alley. Promised a future with the company, Cynthia woke up every single day with a smile and an eagerness for the opportunity that lay before her, even though her work hours per week were cut from 40 to 20.
It was only part-time now, but a company career was real possibility and that was all she ever wanted, just a chance.
Bob and Cynthia warmly greeted the customers each and every day. If you needed to get out of the parking lot quickly they made sure your car was not blocked.
If you exhibited any kind of physical ailment they parked your car near the exit. If there was a snowfall during the day they made sure your car was cleared off.
I wouldn’t say they worked for tips but I made sure that after a particularly snowy day, following a holiday, or any time I felt a little flush, I always took care of Bob and Cynthia and I knew others did, too.
After all, good service is a commodity well worth rewarding.
Today, however, it was quite different.
I pulled into the parking lot looking for one or the other of my favorite attendants.
I was met instead by a big metal sign that read “This lot is no longer attended.”
I then made my way to the computerized machine that took my money efficiently and without comment.
I walked on but couldn’t help to think about Bob and Cynthia and all the other Bobs and Cynthias in the world who have been replaced, or that will be replaced by cold unfeeling technology.
First it was fewer hours, then no employment benefits, now it’s the people themselves which companies have dispensed with.
I didn’t check to see where the new parking lot machine was made, but I’ll bet anything it was China.