In the olden days when you needed something, you would have to flip through this strange volume called a telephone book to the section a store that might sell the product you wanted might be grouped with. You would then call each business in the group asking to see if they did in fact sell said item and what the cost for the item was. The phones at establishments outside of the retail and big box stores have, in my experience, invariably been manned by somewhat surly individuals with one syllable names. As you can imagine, in my very short time spent on the phone, I would try to pronounce whatever random item I was looking for as quickly and efficiently as possible; which means I tripped over my words and made little to no sense ever, such as the time I forgot the word for brake pads and referenced them as “car stoppers”. You would have to have a piece of paper and a writing instrument available so that you could note which business had the product in stock and at what price. Then you would use an algorithm of sorts to figure out where you should purchase what you needed, factoring price, proximity and possibly parking. I attempted to revive this antiquated tactic in my pursuit of some bolts we would need for the deck this morning.
I had a mere six places to call and with two numbers disconnected I was feeling pretty good about my chances of a successful outcome. Not so much. Butch, Mitch and Fletch (not their real names, but it could have been) were dependably short and mildly irritated as I asked if they stocked the things I needed. No’s all around. When my husband called to check in I admitted my defeat and figured we would have to buy what we needed retail and in single units – except of course, he reminded me that we had free shipping with Amazon Prime. All that was required of me was a few clicks and a confirmation would be sent telling me that of course, the item was stocked, would be available in bulk and at a discounted rate, no further phone calls needed.
I wonder if my kids are missing out on the crucial character building experience of having to find, call and wait for a response from a list of places. Or if by the time they have independent purchasing power drones will simply drop whatever they need at their doorstop. Will they still have Buds or Cals or Sues to contend with at the desks of supply companies and small stores tucked away in industrial parks?