On Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, my family (visiting from Michigan) and I went to the Georgia Aquarium. It is a painful irony that on this day all the white-collar jobs have the day off and all the retail positions have to report to duty. My dad and I took a trip to Lowes and witnessed the whole situation with clarity. As I was driving and it is my town, I choose the radio selection. First I went to 89.3 and found that they were playing MLK speeches mixed with James Brown’s “Say it Loud”. I really liked it. On the way home I was delighted to find another speech playing on another station. Later in the day we got in the car again to go to the aquarium and I found another recording of a speech. This one was about all the negative synonyms for the word black and all the positive meanings for the word white and the subtle but repetitive, if not relentless ways the Negro has been taught to think less of himself and more of the Caucasian. I found listening to the speeches very thought provoking and a great way to squeeze in some reverence for Dr. King even though it was inadequate. No one else in the car seemed to thin the same. My dad asked me a few times to change the station.
The aquarium was much like the trip to Lowes; another venue held open on the holiday. This facility is different, however, the workers are not too strained. Which leads me to the thing that brought about this entry. the woman taking tickets at the entrance the the aquatic carnival that is the Georgia Aquarium. She takes your ticket and scans it just like at a sporting event or concert but the computer next to her chimes in and says “thank you” and you walk past. The scanner technology took the eye contact out of such a social transaction; focusing the attention of the employee on the bar code of the ticket and removing the handing back and forth of the ticket which would normally include some, albeit brief, face time. This latest innovation takes another facet of the exchange and completely removes it. It adds a new dimension (or rather removes one) to unteraction (non-interaction). I don’t like to think about jobs being taken by automation, but any thoughts of it are usually short lived because I can also think of tons of new jobs that exist today because of similar technologies. It is almost harder to think about giving people jobs that they are not needed for. Watching them try to do them may be even harder.
Regardless MLK Day in the ATL passed and he remains as much a fascinating and admirable figure as ever.