She didn’t lay on the horn but might as well have done that. In my rear-view mirror, I watched her mouthing words and throwing her hands up in exasperation. It was so ridiculous to me that it actually made me smile. I mean, where else would someone spark a mini road rage thing by coming to a full stop at a three way stop? Really? I annoyed someone because I wasn’t in so much of a hurry that I didn’t roll through a stop sign and through the intersection?
What was she so late for? Where was she going in such a hurry? Don’t think I really would want to know and, truth be told, my guess is that the answer is probably “none of the above.” That is just how she goes through life – in a hurry for nothing or not much – and aggravated that everyone else isn’t just like she is.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, so much of our economy now is tied to things that help save time. Saving time creates jobs these days, right? Think Amazon drivers, home-delivered groceries, prescriptions, and pizza and so much more. And of course, business, well anything that boosts business can’t be all bad, no?
Look at Starbucks the last two years. What has changed? Everything, I would suggest. Their business model seems to have morphed into serving coffee and food – fast – and of course that includes the added bonus of people not having to be inconvenienced by having to exit their cars. Just go through the drive-thru, saves time and while you are waiting for your Frap, you can keep watching TicTok or whatever your favorite go-to website or app is. Losing time on your phone is the big no-no, right?
And the cost? Well, yes, there is a cost for everything. In Starbucks’ case, the cost just might be that what brought them to the table, what made them unique and gave them their competitive advantage, the creation of a place that served great coffee but also provided a comfortable place to meet and socialize, to chat with a friend or discuss a business deal or next months’ vacation plans with another, or how Johnnie is doing in school or that great book you just read. Now instead, more time with a screen without having to interact with another human. Hmmmm. Sort of reminds me of all those companies who have also “updated” their business model via Zoom or Teams and now conduct business in front of screens instead of in person.
And they wonder why turnover has jumped, morale has plummeted, and folks just don’t seem to care like they used to – or have the same work ethic or the social sensibilities. But, as I mentioned earlier, every situation has a silver lining; we have entered the golden age for therapists, delivery drivers, warehouse builders and social media influencers.
And what about all those young people who have never known a life that did not revolve around their screens? Where does this path lead?
I think if I owned Starbucks stock for long, I would be thinking hard about getting rid of it. With their morphed business model what they have done to me is effectively commoditized their product, reduced it down to the lowest common denominator – time, convenience – and the WalMart approach to business – price. How long will it be before some enterprising entrepreneur realizes that one could start building those little kiosks in parking lots that only serve drive-thru coffee and do it faster and cheaper, and slip in under the radar of the 800-pound coffee gorilla, and eat their lunch?
The same thing probably also holds true for all sorts of things, like even that old-school media – print. Digital saves time, money, bottom line, and is super convenient, no? Well, yes and no. You see, anytime there is change, something usually gets lost in the transition. Everything has a cost. And the relative value of what is lost is sometimes very subtle and sometimes not so much, and often not realized until too late in the rear-view mirror.
What is the value of a conversation – the old-fashioned kind – in person? Or the low impact ease of reading the local news on print – at your leisure? Versus diving into a social media platform every day for a couple hours on your screen and then wondering where all your time has gone?
Where has all our time gone? I’ll have a Venti dark please, two raw sugars, a splash of cream… and room.
And can you give me a Pupachino for my dog too? I’m in a hurry and he loves those Pupcups.