Using a gas card, I have wondered if at some point gas stations would do away with attendant employees altogether– I had seen some membership-based gas stations that have done this, but now Shell has as well in Lubbock, Texas.

I enjoy the convenience of using a gas card, but it is also nice to interact with human beings as we run errands and take care of different things around town…. our local Shell stations went out of business many months ago, so I was surprised to see one open today when I was out for lunch. Even more surprising than seeing a Shell station open in Lubbock was seeing the the attendant’s booth: a boarded up small house with an emergency shutoff button and some phone numbers to call night or day if there is a problem.

I suppose it is a sign of the times– I remember reading in John Naisbitt’s book “HIGH TECH, high touch,” he predicts that in our brave new technological age, we all will tend to live our lives increasingly “distanced and distracted.” Certainly a gas station devoid of all human supervision seems to be a concrete manifestation of “distanced.” I have seen other gas stations like this I suppose– there a Texico station we pass by on the way to Colorado from Lubbock….. it just struck me as strange to see a Shell station do this in Lubbock.

I think the main idea this drives home to me is how we need to be intentional about the human interactions we choose to be a part of every day. I think about a billboard I saw on a recent trip to Galveston, Texas, advertising a new Houston-suburb community with alley-entry garages so “you never have to see your neighbors.”

How sad is that? I have been struck recently by how powerful the conditioning influence of consumerism is upon us all and has become upon me particularly– for entertainment we often go to the mall or to Target– sometimes not to buy but always to THINK ABOUT buying. Or going to the local Best Buy to see the latest consumer electronics gadgets– that has (at times) almost been a hobby of mine.

The not so subtle message in these types of activities seems to be: don’t be satisfied with what you have, seek out more things to buy! The message of this self-help / unstaffed Shell station and that billboard near Galveston was: take care of your own life and don’t mess with interacting with people: that probably takes too much time out of your already busy schedule, and would be a worthless experience anyway….

I think we need more front porches on houses and more people being intentional about using them, rather than going to the local mall or store when they are bored and need to “get out and do something.” We need to be investing more in the lives of other human beings rather than finding ways to save time for more important things…. because in the final analysis, few things probably are as valuable as the moments we spend investing in other’s lives.

I am not going to suggest that every time we go to the store and buy something– whether that is a tank of gas or a loaf of bread– we are going to engage in an amazingly rewarding and unexpected personal encounter– that is a bit too idealistic and naive for even me– but I will and do suggest that human interactions are becoming increasingly scarce and less common in our mediacentric, technology-rich culture. Important things to consider as we go about our daily routines, I think.

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