The traffic getting my wife into work yesterday was much lighter than either of us anticipated. With the extra time we had, we stopped in at Dunkin’ Donuts to get coffee. There was a line of seven or eight cars queued up at the drive-up window. As is our usual custom, we parked the car and went inside. And not surprisingly, while everyone else waited at the drive-up, we were served in about two minutes. It made me wonder if anyone even bothers counting the cost of convenience.
The more I contemplated this question, the more it began to sink in that convenience has become a driving principle in our culture. I suspect most never question the cost of convenience – it’s become a virtual default setting. But at what point does convenience morph into blatant laziness?
That’s a question that we should all contemplate. The implications are virtually life-changing.
The Dunkin Donuts experience is hardly isolated. I’ve seen the same situation play out countless times at banks, pharmacies, and fast food restaurants. In virtually every situation, I find it much quicker and more stress-free to simply go inside the building and take care of my business.
Maybe I should even be thankful. After all, the drive-up windows are a big reason why the inside of so many establishments are virtually empty. Everyone else is busy waiting in line outside.
There was a time when drive-up windows were mostly about speed. If you wanted to get in and out in a hurry, you went to the drive-up window. But not anymore. In recent years, you’ll almost always wait longer at the drive-up than you will if you go inside.
But if drive-up windows are no longer faster, then what’s the advantage?
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s pure laziness. People simply don’t want to get out of their cars. They’re willing to sit in a traffic line for 15 or 20 minutes, instead of going inside and getting out in two or three minutes. The payoff is not having to get out of the car, and walk to and from the building. Far from being faster, it’s an exchange of time for ease.
Use the drive-up if you think you must, but count the cost. It’s probably taking you more time, not less. And you’re also sacrificing an opportunity to meet and connect with some interesting people inside.
Gotta Park as Close to the Building as Possible, Otherwise…Otherwise What???
Ever see those people who, come hell or high water, they have to get the closest parking space to the building? If need be, they’ll even park in a handicapped space.
Now it’s possible that people engaged in this practice are so consumed at getting as close as possible that they don’t see the big picture.
But here’s what the big picture looks like to me, standing afar:
- You work diligently to get the closest space, which usually takes more time than parking farther out.
- You have to exert more effort dodging oncoming cars and pedestrians, the closer that you are to the building. After all, you’re not the only one who wants that close-in space.
- You run the very real risk of being involved in an accident, or hitting a pedestrian.
- If you park in a handicapped space, and you aren’t in fact handicapped, you risk getting a citation and fine.
Given all of the apparent risks that go with parking as close to the entrance as possible, why would anyone do it?
Again, I submit that the primary motivation is laziness. But it’s also likely that people who engage in this practice do it on instinct. Very little thought is given.
They can avoid all of that trouble and hassle by parking a couple hundred feet from the entrance, and walking to the building and back. That also provides the benefit of physical exercise. But again, we should suspect that that’s not a motivating factor when your primary objective is avoiding physical exertion.
Casual Dress that Screams “I Don’t Care!” – About Anything
There’s a rising dress code in our culture, particularly among younger people. Or maybe it would be better to say that there’s a rising lack of a dress code in our culture.
Example: You’re at the grocery store – or anywhere else for that matter – and a couple of twenty-somethings jump out of a car wearing PJ bottoms, flip-flops, and faded T-shirts. They look for all the world as if they just rolled out of bed. But it’s 2:15 in the afternoon.
Have you ever seen people like this? I’ve seen it in both Georgia and New Hampshire, so it’s not a regional thing. It’s common among teenagers and twenty-somethings. But I’ve even seen a number of people who I’m certain are well north of 30 in similar attire.
What’s up with that trend?
What’s wrong with that trend? Am I splitting hairs? I don’t think so.
Back when I was in my 20s, and trying to formulate life strategies, I listened to a lot of motivational speakers. A repetitive theme was to be ready for opportunity wherever it may develop. Put another way, put on your game face early each day, and be ready to play ball.
It was all about being prepared: opportunity usually comes by surprise, not by appointment. I took that message to heart. Even today, that I work from home, and could spend the day working in my PJs and still being totally productive, I still get my game face on early in the day. It really is true, you never know what’s around the next corner. Or the next phone call or email.
Overly Casual Dress Displays a Lack of Discipline
It’s also a matter of discipline. I fear that the younger generations aren’t developing it. They’re even repulsed by it.
More so than anything else, success requires discipline. It’s even more important than skills and talent. And if you don’t have skills and talent, it’s even more important. But that message is being lost. It’s apparently much more convenient to be “comfortable” than to be ready.
How can you take anyone seriously, who’s over 18 and dressed in furry slippers, Pokemon PJ pants and a Superman tee shirt???
Imagine an unemployed or underemployed Millennial is at a bank and happens to run into the hiring manager of a company where she hopes to get a job, dressed like she just rolled out of bed? Opportunity lost!
She didn’t have her game face on, and wasn’t ready to play when the situation called for it.
Buying Prepared Foods – The End of Cooking
According to the US Department of Agriculture, 43.1% of all meals fall under “food away from home”. That’s up from 25.9% in 1970. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly purchasing prepared meals even at the grocery store.
What this means is that the number of meals either prepared or eaten at home is plummeting. It’s hard to reconcile this trend, given the popularity of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, as well as the popularity of designer kitchens. How is it that people are watching cooking shows on TV, and building designer kitchens, while at the same time preparing and consuming fewer meals at home than ever?
Typical American schizophrenia is certainly the immediate answer. We do things that simply don’t make sense.
There are all kinds of reasons offered to explain this trend. Busier schedules leaving less time for domestic responsibilities is the most common. Part of me gets that, and part of me doesn’t.
My suspicion is that it’s a trade-off of convenience, at the expense of health and finances. That’s a steep price to pay.
The End of Cooking Goes Beyond Health and Money
It also comes at the expense of creativity and self-reliance. For many people in many jobs, work is done by rote. There’s little or no opportunity to be creative. Cooking is a chance to be creative. We should hope that people would get at least that message from cooking shows.
Then there’s also the self-reliance factor. The more that we come to be dependent on others to cook our meals for us, the more we lose the skill to do it ourselves. It’s entirely possible that many young people are coming into a world fully expecting that someone else will do the cooking.
That’s tragic, because among everything else, it makes us dependent on someone else for something as simple as meal preparation. We can think of it as a voluntary surrender of autonomy.
“A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts.” – Charles Hugh Smith
Revolutionary only because it’s becoming increasingly rare. Food preparation and eating meals have been culturally significant throughout human history. But we’re now coming to view meals as just another commodity. They’re something to be eaten on the fly, rather than as a celebration of life in community with others. We’re willing to sacrifice all of that at the altar of convenience.
Counting the Cost of Convenience, and Why it Matters (Because it Really Does)
It is of course human nature to seek out easier ways to do things. But once convenience becomes a driving principle, it takes over our lives. It even has the potential to change our lives in seriously negative ways.
Sometimes the harder way is the better way. The perfect analogy is the student who chooses to pay someone else to write an essay for him. The student gets the assignment in, and maybe even gets a good grade on it. But at the same time, he has learned nothing from the exercise.
Convenience is usually paid for either with time or money or both. But the bigger cost may be lost opportunity. Convenience has a definite insulating quality to it. It minimizes our contact with people and experiences. And while we mostly think that we’re eliminating unpleasant face-to-face exchanges, we may also be cutting out opportunities for personal connections and the greater financial and occupational opportunities they present.
In and of itself, convenience isn’t a bad thing. But at the same time, it can’t become a ruling principle. We have to count the cost of convenience, and that includes looking at costs that are not so obvious.
Can you think of other examples of where the cost of convenience is unexpectedly high? Don’t limit those costs just to money either – there’s always more going on beneath the surface.