People are so different anymore.
I remember growing up and being impressed with the “good neighbor” culture. Helping push a car out of the snow, helping the elderly carry things when you see them slowly moving with their hands full. Helping someone across the ice.
I was driving back from St. Louis Saturday morning at about 8 a.m. and pulled over into Troy for gas and a donut.
I put the pump handle in the reservoir on the side of the truck and dashed in for a chocolate milk, a donut, and a bottle of water. I jogged back to the car, jumped in, and turned the key. Rurr-ruuuur-rr. Rrr. Silence.
Fuuuuuuudge- Except I said the real word, the eff-dash-dash-dash word.
I went back in to see if the convenience store slash gas station had a jump box, but they just had cables. The attendant came out and tried to jump my F150 with his Wagoneer and we had no success.
After about 10 minutes of trying, he went back inside and I got on the phone with my insurance company to enact the Roadside Assistance program. They should call it the ERAP.
Eventual Roadside Assistance Program.
No one staffs any of these Roadside Assistance programs with people anymore. Everything is automated and it’s one of the most frustrating things in the world. It’s even worse on your phone where everything is minimized.
Just staff the damned line regionally. This is a move to save on having to pay health benefits, schedule vacation days, wages, unions etc. Just automize the system and remove the human process.
After filling out the seven pages of automated data entry, we got a text saying what company had been notified and they should be able to get to us between 90 and 120 minutes. Sometimes you just have to be patient. I let the truck rest and tried to restart in 5-10 minute intervals. After about three tries, I Googled tow shops in Troy. I called the first one and what do you know, they aren’t “really” in Troy and it was about an hour to two hours before they could get there.
I called the next one on the line. A man answered and I told him the situation that I was trying to get back to Iowa and he said he would try to get someone over in half an hour. The guy showed up in 20 minutes, plugged the jump box in, told me to get in and turn it over. Vrooooom.
The point here is that it was negotiating the human process. HUMANS. Not AI, not automation. A phone call and a man answered. I explained to the man what my situation was, he sent someone right over and problems solved. I’m furious with the insurance company. I’m furious with the dealership I bought the vehicle from that told me not two months ago there was nothing wrong with my battery.
I’m furious with every single Missourian or tourist that saw my hood propped up with me craning my head in the engine and didn’t stop to ask if they could help. Not one person. It would take both hands and my feet to count the number of people that looked straight at me or my truck with quizzical looks. But none came over to see if they could help.
Maybe it’s Missouri, or maybe they were all driving through enroute to Texas. But people need to get back to being inherently good. I told my children for close to 30 years that people are genuinely good. Sure, there are the bad people out there. It’s a society. But inherently we should be good, and ask if we can help. Sometimes it might take 30 minutes out of your day, and some days it could take five minutes or less. What happened to us?
Why are we so disengaged with each other? Is it fear? Mistrust? Hatred? Apathy?
I mean, I could see if it was on the side of the road in the dark, not pulling over to help. But a vehicle and its owner in broad daylight in a convenience store parking lot? Not ONE person offering to assist?
I got it taken care of and we were safe and on our way, but it shook me a bit that people are getting this disengaged with each other. I’ve stopped to help at car accidents with serious injuries, stopped to help dig people out of the snow, or push a car through an intersection, helped with first aid when a customer or a friend is in trauma.
Not that you’re a hero for stopping and helping, it should just be the norm and not the exception. We are a good people, but we need to show we are a good people - genuine, considerate, concerned, and compassionate.
Don’t get me started on the automation, that’s a progression of the market-based system and profit-margin insulation. Corporate America continues to bail on its global customers and we need to be vocal about that transition. Those that are successful are top-notch customer service freaks, e.g. Disney, Hilton, etc.
To wrap it up, I went to O’Reilly’s in Troy and got a new battery. The gentleman behind the counter appreciated my humor when I said if it costs more than $500 I’m coming over the counter. His co-worker immediately slid him a busted off screw driver as a shiv for defense. We all laughed. He came out and installed the battery. I gave him $20 for the effort. I had no tools in my truck.
My morning in Troy ended up on a great note and I smiled most of the way home.
That was probably due to the chicken strips I got at the BP Amoco in Hannibal across from the Days Inn on the south side of town. They have the best chicken strips I’ve ever had and some kick-butt huge cajun fried catfish filets that you just pick up and eat with your fingers – But that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at Charles.V@PenCityCurrent.com.
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