Fr. John's Letter Archives

Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.

Self-service humanity?

03-15-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Maybe not my finest moment… I was in the Supermarket and at check-out time there were no Cashiers, just the Self-Service Kiosks. I do not use the Self-Service Kiosks simply because they put people out of a job. There are four kiosks and one staff person supervising the checkout process. So that means there are today, three less cashiers, three less jobs. And if we continue to use the kiosks then the store will get the message and hire even less staff.

Another problem with the kiosks is that after about three or four items there is nowhere to put additional items, except on the floor. If you try to put them back in the cart the camera sees it and tells you to “put it back in the bagging area”. So, I asked to speak with the Manager. I told him, rather strongly, that I resented having to do this self-service check-out because it puts people out of jobs. Just my principle. And since I had more items than normal my stuff was all over the floor. Not only me, but the lady behind me was holding a baby and scanning items at the same time and her stuff was all over the floor as well. Though she had a smile on her face, don't suppose I did.

The manager informed me that it was not his decision so I told him he should talk to his Union about the lack of Cashiers. To which he informed me he was not part of the Union. So, I asked him since he was a Manager why he didn't jump on a register and start checking people out. No response.

We are being trained like dogs to just go along with this stuff and as a result today there are less jobs for people. We are taught that the “convenience is so super” and “isn’t technology great”! After all it reduces your wait time and your time is really precious and you are in such a hurry after all? Why is everyone in such a hurry? Wasn't the computer and all the other technology supposed to make our lives easier, more efficient, less hectic? So rather than wait in the checkout line we get annoyed by telling ourselves “this wait is ridiculous” and we head for the self-service aisle. Besides that, when we use the Cashier lane we actually have to interact with another human. Imagine that! Instead we shop and never speak to a soul. That is dehumanizing in itself. And we wonder why so many people are depressed, feel isolated and alone. The Supermarket self-service aisle is just one small example.

How often do you enter a bank these days? ATM’s have taken care of that. Or when is the last time a Phone repair man came to your house? If the phone doesn't work, we just take it to the store. When is the last time you wrote an actual handwritten note or letter instead of an email? How about actually using the phone for a conversation rather that a cold text message?

I know you may be thinking what a dinosaur he is. You can’t stop the forward march of technological progress. Why not? Are we in control of the technology or is it in control of us? That is the crux of the issue. We get to determine how it is used, how it should affect us, where we need to draw a line or put limits on its use and expansion.

So here we find ourselves in 2020 with all its mind-numbing technology and advances that just a few decades ago weren’t even possible. Yet with the outbreak of the coronavirus we are starting to feel like we are living in the middle of a medieval plague. That should humble us. Technology has made us believe that we are in control of it all. The virus reminds us ever so rudely that we are not. It also reminds us of our humanity and that the best part of our humanity is not speeding through a checkout line but speeding to care for one another.

I get the upside to technology but there is also a downside that we shouldn’t ignore. In many ways technology makes us less human and strangely now a virus puts us back in touch with our humanity.


Fr. John B.

PS Continue to take precautions including good health habits: eating properly, vitamins, supplements and proper rest.