Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Do the machines serve us, or do we serve the machines?

I went with a friend to see the entirely awesome Quentin Tarantino offering Inglourious Basterds on Sunday. We decided to see it at the Cinerama at 4th & Lenora. I ordered the tickets in advance, intending to pick them up "will call." The movie started at 3:30, so I wanted to be there about 3:00 to have time to park, get tickets, and get good seats.

Well, I ended up running a little late--I pull into the lot behind Cinerama at 3:10. No problem, still plenty of time. But it's a pay lot, so I head to the machine to pay. It used to be that you'd just grab the cash required for the fee, fold it up, stuff it in a slot corresponding to your numbered space, and then go on your merry way. But now you have to put money or a credit card in a machine that gives you a ticket that you place on your dash.

I reached the machine in horror as I see a line of no fewer than eight people waiting to beg the machine permission to park. The process was going VERY slowly. Then I had a sickening flashback.

I have frequent doctor's appointments near 1st & Virginia. Parking in that area on the street is usually a problem, so what I used to do is park in one of the near pay lots. Invariably, there is a line of six people waiting to pay, and all of them are ENTIRELY CLUELESS about how to operate such mindbogglingly complex technology as a parking meter. So, despite arriving 10 minutes early, I end up 10 minutes late to my appointment. Tiring of this, I eventually bought an ORCA pass and took the light rail into the city and, OMG, walked to the doctor's office. Cheaper that way, too (but not as much as you'd think).

Back to the present, I realize the problem this time is not with slack-jawed idiots, but with the machine itself. It is SLOW. It stops to consider life's possibilities for several seconds before proceding to the next step. It takes a full 60 seconds to get a parking ticket if you follow its instructions with alacrity. SIXTY SECONDS. Multiply this by ten people, and you can see this could be a serious problem. Not counting the time it would take to return to the car and place the receipt on the dash, I might add. Whereas, it took all of twenty seconds to drop cash in a box in the "good old days".

I finally get the parking ticket and now it's 3:19. My date and I run down Lenora towards 4th and see that the ticket window STILL has a huge line 11 minutes til showtime. I quickly remembered that there was a kiosk at the corner of 4th & Lenora. So, we scrambled up there and found a line of about 12 people waiting for that!

It turns out there are two purchase/will-call kiosks at the corner, but only one of them actually permits you to obtain tickets! The other one lets you....browse? WHAT THE FUCK?! THERE'S ONLY ONE MOVIE EVER SHOWING AT THIS PLACE AND THE SHOWTIMES ARE CLEARLY DISPLAYED ON THE MARQUEE. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?

Not to mention people are having trouble operating the kiosk efficiently. I have to wonder about that. This is one of the most tech-savvy cities on the entire goddamned planet. Do you expect me to believe that the average person in THIS city, of all cities, is too stupid to operate ticket-dispensing machines? I have a hard time believing it--a more plausible conclusion is that such devices are poorly designed.

Finally it's 3:33 and we have convinced the almighty machine to dispense us our tickets, and we have to scramble to find a seat. We do find a pretty good couple of seats and eventually are able to relax enough and enjoy the movie.

But later, I got to thinking--this wonderful technology that everyone claims empowers us and saves our time actually ended up WASTING my time and making me COMPLETELY MISERABLE. Now I know how King Ludd must've felt. He would collapse into a ball of sobbing madness if he had to live in today's world, though.

The rest of us just deal with this with numb acceptance, shrug, and put a stupid "don't worry be happy" grin on our face. But, THAT DAY, I got angry, and felt the urge to smash every kiosk I could find. The power of Ludd compels you....


April said...

I think the people in the line @ the kiosk were angrier than you were but the ridiculousness of the broken dispenser, the one ticket line at the front door, no will call, and no usher at the second set of doors were all cause for angst.

The best thing I saw though? The line for the men's bathroom. This is a rarity. As I noticed it a woman walked up to me and commented on it. We nearly high fived over it.

Charles said...

@April--Well, yeah, that is my least-favorite feature about the place. LOL.