In the 20+ years the Internet has been around there’s been an exponential increase in the field of “do-it-yourself.” There are plenty of things we do ourselves that used to need someone else’s expertise to get the job done. But it’s not just the things you do around the house, it also comes to obtaining the things we need. When given the option, we sometimes choose to check ourselves out.
Some things we do ourselves because our options have changed. Remember Full Service gas? It’s the law in some states that someone else has to pump your gas for you. Here? It actually used to cost MORE to have someone pump your gas for you. I can’t remember the last time I saw a Full Service station, and quite honestly, I don’t think I’d go for it anyway. I can step out, open the gas tank, put the nozzle in and pump away. Heck, you can pay with debit/credit at the machine, reducing the number of people you have to interact with to zero.
The ATM is another place. I know I’m not alone in thinking “I’d rather wait for one person in line at a machine than stand in line for 30 minutes for one teller to do what I can do myself.” There have actually been times where I’ve walked into a bank where no one was in line, and I’ve still turned to the ATM and taken care of business myself. Force of habit? Maybe. But heaven forbid we let the person who’s getting paid to make sure I get the things I need get in the way of me getting the things I need myself.
The newest and latest “do-it-yourself” place is shopping. When I first saw self-checkouts popping up at markets and department stores I thought “How cheap can these companies be?” Rest assured the decision to install these machines is a financial one, but over time I’ve found myself making a bee-line straight for the self-checkout. Even this morning, with only one person in the regular checkout lane I was approaching, I walked 20 feet further to the wide open self-checkout and scanned and bagged my things myself. Why?
Is it impatience? Some days it has to be. During the holidays when everyone was buying all the food in sight because they’d never be allowed out of the house again, the lines were packed 10 and 12 deep. The self-checkouts? Maybe two people waiting. Why wait for 10 minutes when you can be packed paid and pryč in two? (pryč – Gone in Czech. Alliteration for the vítězství!)
Another reason for self-checking: you know exactly what is in which bag. So is it a control thing? Maybe not so much as knowing I didn’t put my bread at the bottom of the bag with the milk and kettle-bells. And instead of putting 20 things in four bags, you can squeeze and Tetris them into two. Why struggle up the stairs with evenly weighted bags when you can lift a small circulation-debilitating car load in one hand so your other can use your keys? (We’ll save the “how many bags are too many to carry from the car at once” debate for another day.)
The final reason I can think of is pacing. When you pick a line and get to the cashier/bag person, you’re at the mercy of their optimum speed that day. And we’ve all had that moment where within 10 seconds of the transaction beginning your internal dialogue switches to “oh my god, this is the slowest person ever. That ice-cream is going to be room-temperature-cream by the time I’m outta here.” When you do it yourself, you can go at the speed you choose. You take the uncertainty out of the process, which can help make things a little less frustrating.
As we go forward in this ever expanding world of DIY it’s good to know the human-interaction element is there if we need it. A professional can step in to take care of the things we don’t understand or just don’t want to deal with that day. I can’t repair my engine or take in my suits. Sometimes we just need help. But when it comes to the simple things I say the more we get a crack at the better. We won’t know what we can handle (and who we won’t have to) until we’re given the chance.
(Googles “Deli-slicer”, related topics: “First-Aid, stitches at home.”)