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5 Things I Wish We Could Still Do

Not everything in decades past was perfect, but some things would still be great to have today


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Is it me or does life just seem harder to navigate these days? I’m not saying that everything in decades past was perfect, but there are definitely things I miss, such as:

Trusting strangers

When did a stranger ringing the doorbell become such a cause for alarm? Why does an unfamiliar car driving slowly down the street set off a flurry of panic on the social app NextDoor?

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Why do we suspect that the UPS driver is stealing our packages or complain to neighbors that the Door Dash guy now has our gate code because someone ordered a pizza delivery? Maybe the question we should be asking is: Why are we so afraid of strangers?

I don’t want to feel I need protection from people just because I don’t know them. I’m tired of the conversations about which Ring package to install or whether motion-sensored outdoor lights are an effective crime deterrent.

I remember a time when I felt comfortable leaving my front door unlocked while I ran errands. I remember when my mailbox didn’t need to be locked and a package wouldn’t disappear from the porch if I wasn’t home to bring it in. Way back when, I found my longtime gardener because he knocked on the door looking for work and introduced himself. Even further back in time, I hitchhiked around Europe — post-college, alone and with a backpack that I sometimes left unattended. None of that would ever happen today, and that, to me, feels like a loss.

Customer service 

Customer service used to matter. Today, it barely even exists — replaced by automated phone menu loops that invariably end in a call center in the middle of nowhere, self-service checkout kiosks at the supermarket, do-it-yourself check-in at the airport, and five-minute telemedicine visits where you self-report your symptoms and are given a prescription without an exam or test. Who, besides big corporations and insurance companies, actually thinks any of those things are an improvement?

Wherever I shop, I encounter long lines at the register and untrained floor staff who don’t know the inventory and couldn’t care less about satisfying the customer. I dread having to call the phone or cable company, knowing it will require spending hours on hold, repeating my information a million times and having to listen to a customer service rep read from a script and then drop the call if I start to show my frustration.

Can I just say: Real customer service isn’t being put on hold for 40 minutes while being assured that my call is important to the business. If my call was so important, they’d hire more telephone support instead of wasting my time. And here’s the rub: A full 88 percent of callers want to speak to a human representative, according to MightyCall.com, a business communications service that advises companies about such things. So, basically, these new, “improved” ways of doing things just annoy the vast majority of customers, and the business is OK with that. Duly noted.

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Tipping for good service

The rules for tipping have changed. For the record, I’m a big tipper — when the service is good. But now tipping is simply expected, with no connection to the quality of service that was delivered. If your job consists of writing my name on a $5 cup of coffee, why am I expected to give you $6? You did the job you are paid to do, and I don’t want to be shamed by that overflowing tip jar on the counter.

But even more irritating to me than the tip jars is the practice of charging customers a hefty surcharge to offset the costs of employee wages and health insurance. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2022 survey, 16 percent of the nation’s restaurants are doing this.

Mind you, this is in addition to the suggested tip. I would much prefer that the restaurant figure out its expenses and set its menu prices accordingly. I can then decide if I can afford to eat there.

Being handed a menu in a restaurant

COVID-19 protocols brought many changes to our lives, and some have lingered, unfortunately. Menu bar codes that you scan with your phone have replaced being handed a physical menu.

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When I dine out, I would like to read a menu on something other than my phone. In fact, I would like it if everyone left their phones at home. I want my server to tell me what specials are being offered and answer my questions. I want to ask which are the chef’s signature dishes, what the staff recommends. Eating out is not an everyday occasion in my life, and starting out the experience with four of us gathered around a table staring at our phones is not how I want things to go.

Invite someone to dinner without needing to ask about their relationship to food.

Eating has gotten very complicated. When cooking for others, we are expected to check in advance about not just our guests’ food allergies, but also their food preferences and food politics. I have friends who are gluten-free, others who won’t eat red meat, a few who only eat organic produce and one who will eat eggs only with the assurance that the chicken was well cared for. I have had people over for dinner where the husband only ate red meat, the wife only ate chicken and the smell of fish made her gag, and their son only ate pasta and only penne-shaped pasta at that. For real.

I miss when a dinner guest would ask what I was planning to serve so that they could coordinate the wine. I miss when people would show up with a delicious dessert and nobody asked whether it was gluten-free or had eggs in it. I miss when dinner parties were as much about the company and the laughter and joy for time we spent together.

Just have one password

I know that the digital world can be a playground for the bad guys. Identity theft and the financial damage it causes is real. But while we increasingly are encouraged to move all the data of our lives online, technology has yet to figured out a way to protect all this information against theft and misuse. Instead, we are advised to create passwords — no two should be the same, none should ever be reused, and they all should have a zillion characters all mixed up.

Yeah, right. In reality, we forget our passwords and have to go through a multistep process to create a new one that lives long enough to be forgotten again next week. If I can’t have just one universal password, how about an eye scan, a fingerprint? If it’s good enough for the CIA, shouldn’t it be good enough for Google?

Share Your Experience: What do you miss about the way things were done in the past? Leave your comments below.

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