“I Don’t Like the Machines”

It is not every day that I receive a spontaneous round of applause.  And certainly not when I am standing in the middle of my local Post Office.  But that was the peculiar event that happened upon me uttering these simple words: “I don’t like the machines.”

In all other respects, the scene in the Post Office was mundanely normal.  A long line of customers––not one under fifty––waiting patiently to be served; one counter open, behind which a poor, over-worked Post Office employee is toiling diligently; a long line of unused Post Office automated machines, beside which another Post Office worker lolls idly, waiting to assist if anyone should choose the machines over the human.

Periodically, the machine’s attendant walks along the line of queuing humanity, repeating the same question to each one of us: “Do you want to use the machines?”  In response, she receives either a curt ‘no’ or a blank stare.  I can’t help but feel a certain element of pity at her position, such that when it comes to my turn to be questioned, I feel a requirement to justify my stance.  That is when I said:

“I don’t like the machines.”

The applause started with a single hand-clap; was slowly taken up by others; in the end was accompanied by cheers, and words of support and thanks and camaraderie.  At that moment, if I had been taken aloft the shoulders of my fellow queuers and paraded through the Post Office aisle, I would not have been surprised; if we had united and forcibly set upon the machines, reducing them to their component parts, the mood was upon us.

Did I enjoy being propelled into this unlikely position of the leader of the anti-automation revolution?  For just a brief moment, perhaps, yes.  Amongst the elderly and the infirm, posting their parcels, buying their stamps, paying their utility bills, applying for their passports, topping up their gas cards, for a brief moment of time the clock was turned back.  In that short space of time, it seemed as though anything was possible; that the human was once again master over the machine.

For one brief glorious moment, until along came a callous youth, who walked straight past our momentarily exultant queue, went unhesitatingly to the machines, and got served immediately.

© Simon Turner-Tree

Simon Turner-Tree applauds the Post Office Neo-Luddites.

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