The Human Touch

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Yesterday, I went to the bank. I’m a modern guy, and like most modern folks, I do a lot (if not most) of my banking online or through an ATM, and that’s OK. But yesterday, I wanted to deposit some cash, and I don’t like the idea of trusting an ATM to count bills. So, I went into the bank. There was a fairly long line – apparently, one of the two tellers scheduled to work that day called in sick.

Besides the lone teller, there were two people in grey suits at desks, pecking away at their computers, trying not to make eye contact with people on the line. There was also a very well-dressed lady who came out from somewhere and began trying very cheerfully to convince the people waiting in line to use the ATM instead of a teller. It occurred to me, probably this lady, and the suits pecking at their computers probably rose up through the ranks at the bank, starting as tellers.
Instead of trying to convince us to not interact with bank personnel, why didn’t they get up and go work at a teller station and provide personal customer services to the people in the line? It would have been no less effort than the desperate (and unsuccessful) cajoling. I’m sure whatever those people in suits were doing at their computers could have waited while they used their time to help the customers in line conduct their banking chores – and we have felt welcome instead of despised.
Contrast that experience with the night before – I played at a jam session in Oakland, and you all know jamming is the epitome of human interaction. Even aside from the musical experience, we all had a great time with each other, and that interaction extended to the audience as well – we were all involved, and it was a beautiful stimulating thing. Maybe that experience set me up for the deep disappointment at the bank the next day.
I’m no Luddite – I like computers and technology, but I think it’s important that we resist the temptation to use tech to avoid live human interaction. Who hasn’t done the lazy thing where you return calls after business hours so you can leave a bunch of voice mails and not have to actually speak with someone, but still get credit for “responding”? The thing is, you don’t really move things along without actual human contact – you’re just kicking the can down the road.
The physiological need to human contact is well documented – babies who are talked to, and read to, develop much faster than babies who don’t get the chance to interact with other people. And this trend continues throughout our childhoods – the kid in class who hasn’t found a friend will be more likely to develop feelings of rejection, and isolation, and those that grow up as adults with this mindset are not well set for success there, either.
Humans need to be recharged regularly by social interaction, and posting on Facebook really doesn’t count. Think of all the screaming arguments you see on social media – how different these arguments might be if the debaters met face-to-face. Businesses that seek to avoid direct human contact (to save money, I’m sure) do their clients a disservice, and I’m not sure the practice actually saves money. Issues that generate a blizzard of emails often can be resolved in a meeting.
So here’s my challenge to you today: Since it’s Pi Day, get out there and interact with at least 3.1416 people today!

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