I have never wanted to work for the Post Office. It must have been a conscious decision I took some time shortly after leaving university, although I am sure that the conviction had been bubbling around in my mind at a more formative age than that.
Now, I have nothing against the Post Office, and I have enormous admiration for all the Post Office staff, who seem to be forever expected to perform increasingly complicated tasks beyond simply dishing out stamps, it is just that I have never wanted to work for the Post Office.
However, new automated machines in my local branch, are forcing me to do just that.
I feel like an unpaid assistant. It is my first day of work experience, and I am confronted with a sprawling, unfathomable blockade of machines. I don’t know which button to press. I don’t know which slip of paper comes out of what slot, or where I need to insert some money. I don’t know whether my package is a large letter or a small parcel; whether it should be tracked, signed or registered; or whether it contains anything, which I need to declare. And, more to the point, I don’t care.
Let me hold my hand up here: I admit that I am someone who has been known to be resistant to change. I didn’t like it when self-service machines were first introduced in banks, although I have––grudgingly––come to accept and use them; I still don’t like self-service checkouts at the supermarket––“please take your item”––and I hope that I never have to use the similarly soulless machines in the public library.
The move towards self-service takes away yet another human interaction in an Age, which is becomingly increasingly remote. The quintessential image of the friendly rural Post Office is one where the post master/mistress knows his/her customers by name; knows their business; pre-empts their needs. The impersonal machine is gradually eroding this Utopian idyll. For some isolated people, the brief exchanges with shop assistants and counter-staff represent the only conversations those people will have in a day.
Automation poses a greater threat to jobs than Brexit. Some people will argue that machines are only replacing the boring jobs that people don’t want to do in the first place. However, some people like boring jobs. Look at me. I should know. I work in an office.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree shakes his fist futilely against the rise of the machine.