On my way back from dropping off the girls at school this morning, I stopped at a petrol station. Why? Because my car was nearly out of fuel. This is a potential disaster that occurs approximately once per week, but which I have always so far averted. Apart from one time, twenty years ago, when my care stopped without warning on the M6.
I had no idea what the problem was, so I called the AA. When the fourth emergency service man came to my rescue, I gave him my top three theories as to why the car wouldn’t go – and not one of them had anything to do with fuel. I was so convincing that the AA guy didn’t think to check the petrol level either. We both felt like idiots that day, and I believe that we still share a bond, even though I don’t know his name and I haven’t seen or thought about him since.
Funnily enough, it was in a very similar location – also on the M6 – where I was stopped for speeding a few months later – the polar opposite of running out of fuel, if you like. And polar is the word! It was about 1 in the morning, absolutely freezing cold, and I was on my way back to my parents’ house for Christmas, after a lavish meal at my future in-laws’ place.
The policeman who stopped me asked if I had been drinking, and I had to confess that I’d been offered a small glass of dry sherry earlier that evening, which I had accepted. The policeman found this funny, for some reason. He made me blow into the machine, saw that the sherry had completely left my system, and sent me on my way with a merry ‘Ho ho ho’ and a warning to keep my speed down.
Anyway – back to this morning. I filled up my car and went in to pay. As I was being served, I remarked about how very warm it was in the shop and payment area. The lady behind the counter agreed, and told me that this was a new thing for them. Apparently, for the past 2 years they have had no heating in there at all! They’ve had engineers out countless times to try to fix the problem, but no-one has been able to work it out – until very recently, when someone discovered the on switch. They flipped it, and – bingo! Heat.
If I had been served by a robot, I would never had heard this interesting story and would never have written this blog. A robot server probably wouldn’t even have noticed the cold, and certainly wouldn’t have cared. And there wouldn’t have been the warmth of human interaction that goes such a long way towards making life worth living – especially for people without work, family, or friends. There are a lot of lonely people around.
So I’m glad that I wasn’t served by a robot this morning, and I’m glad that I wasn’t stopped for speeding by a robot 20 years ago.
In total contrast to my previous opinion, my new message to robots is this:
You are not welcome – bring on the humans!