I swear we’re becoming a society of trained monkeys.

For the record I hate being a trained monkey.

When I was younger the businesses and professionals truly served us. They smoothed the way for our interactions with them, usually bending over backwards in the process.

The changes started slowly, but we should have been paying much closer attention.

It all began with the simple things, like pumping your own gas. How did we ever get roped into this?

Back in the day you pulled up to the pump and a smiling face greeted you at the driver’s side window. If you told him to fill ’er up you got the royal treatment. He of course would ask, “Regular or premium?” And he would do the honor of filling the tank.

I clearly recall the attendant dipping the squeegee into the blue solution and shaking off the excess, then scrubbing the windshield with the sponge side before using the rubber side to remove the liquid. Then he used the blue paper towel to clear any smudges.

A particularly good attendant would even clean the back and side windows – even the side mirrors – and then ask if you would like him to check the oil. He would pull out the dipstick, wipe it off with the blue paper towel, dip it in again, then use the paper towel to keep it from dripping as he walked to the driver’s window to show you the level.

If the oil was low he would offer to add more, and if you agreed he would grab a can of oil, stick a spout into place and take care of it for you.

When he was done he would announce the total, you handed over the cash, and he gave you the change right then and there, the pocket change coming from a coin dispenser on his belt.

Regardless of the weather you stayed warm and dry inside the car.

Nowadays there is no attendant to be seen. Of course you run your credit card yourself. If there even is a squeegee it is likely to be filthy, and more often than not the cleaning solution tank is dry and they are out of paper towels. And you darn well better have checked your oil before you leave the house.

Grocery stores are another example of this degradation of service. They used to bag your groceries for you in heavy duty paper bags that came in handy later at home, then place the bags in the cart, accompany you to your car and then load the groceries in your trunk for you.

Those were the days, my friend.

Now you almost always have to operate the credit card terminal yourself, and most of them are just enough different to be aggravating.

Today every store and professional wants to have an online presence and foists it upon their customers. The other day I had an appointment with a medical specialist, and spent what seemed like forever online ahead of time filling out form after form after form as part of what was touted as an expedited check-in process.

Oh, how I long for the old days of walking into Dr. Brown’s office in Stryker, saying hello to his nurse Pauline and then just sitting down for the short time until he was ready to see me.

Nowadays all the stores offer you some token discount for downloading an app so they can get your email, then track your purchases and overwhelm your inbox with a deluge of promotions. My standard reply is no thanks, I’ll skip that.

In fact, the day I have to download an app to order at a fast food place will signal the end of my eating at fast food places at all.

Now, please pardon me while I go squat down, scratch under my arms and eat my banana treat.

Don Allison is an author, historian and retired editor of The Bryan Times.

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