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Publisher’s Letter: Service Station

Ashley Sexton Gordon. Photo by Jeannie Frey Rhodes.

I’m not saying I’m simple. But on the other hand, I’m not saying I’m not. I can do many things well, like plan a party and edit a high school English paper. And I can make a mean Mexican lasagna that will make you forget your keto diet. But there are a few things—and God himself can attest to this—that I need help doing. And one of these things is checking out at a grocery store.

Please don’t make me scan my own groceries. For the love. I don’t know where the bar code is on a can of pinto beans, and I sure as heck can’t weigh a bag of loose Brussels sprouts all on my lonesome. That’s why there are professionals in place. Don’t take their jobs away. I have four kids, a husband and a dog and my basket of goods is stacked high and stacked proud. I can’t navigate the self-checkout line. The recorded voice that statically announces, “Please place your items in the bagging area” send chills down my spine like it’s a call to arms. I’m waving the white flag.

And this attempt at efficiency is just the beginning. Have you been to the airport lately? Or let me reword that. Have you been to the airport with four children lately? My husband flew for work, solo, all summer and happily navigated the self-service check-in kiosks, if he checked a bag at all. But try gathering a sticky herd around a small screen and punching in 2,458 numbers to retrieve each boarding pass. And then, after grabbing and snatching the paperwork as it shoots out of the slot, to be left with oversized luggage tags with peel tape so you can attempt to wrap your baggage handle while not taping your upper arm and youngest child to it. By the time you make it through the full-body scanners with nothing left on but your skivvies, you will pass the first restaurant bar—four kids or not—and declare, “Well, it’s five o’clock somewhere.”

There is a time and a place for everything. And this is not the time nor the place to take away the service industry. I know, I know. Everyone is using automated checking deposits now. But completely obliterating bank tellers as we know it? There are many times I want to see that smiling face on the other side of the bulletproof window and not simply deposit my money into a hole.

But there is a flip side to this do-it-yourself movement that I can’t quite wrap my head around. I own a blow dryer. So when blow-dry bars started popping up in every strip mall with a for-lease sign, I thought for sure that this new trend would go the way of the paint-your-own-pottery franchises. But no. Ladies—who also own blow dryers—will pay good money to get their hair blown out before a night out on the town. Same goes for having their makeup done by an artist instead of using the products from home. The beauty industry proves that it feels good, and people will pay, to be pampered.

I say, let’s throw the whole system a curveball and bring back the full-service gas station. That’s right. I honest-to-goodness believe that this would catch back on. I don’t want to scan my pinto beans—can’t scan my pinto beans—and I sure as heck don’t want to get out of my car. I would appreciate someone checking my tires, and wiping off my windshield and pumping my gas, thank you very much. Especially in inclement weather. I would hate to mess up my blowout.