The Wells Fargo Wagon

As I found myself shaking my head at the constant prowling of delivery trucks in my neighborhood, I thought the best way to express my anxieties might be in a new piece of fiction.  You can find “Prime Time” here, but there were some additional thoughts on the subject I wanted to share.

When I was in eighth grade, I participated in the chorus of a junior high production of The Music Man.  In that musical, there is a piece about the exciting experience of having the Wells Fargo delivery wagon show up in one’s neighborhood:

Oh the Wells Fargo Wagon is a coming down the street

Oh don’t let it pass my door

Oh the Wells Fargo Wagon is a coming down the street

I wish I knew what he was coming for!

The song goes on to detail memorable deliveries from the past (grapefruit from Tampa and a cannon for the courthouse square), and soon the whole town is celebrating the rare pleasure of a gift brought to one’s door.  I remember a similar excitement as a child when someone in the family got an order from the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogues – although most often the packages were picked up at the counter in the back of the store and not delivered to the house.

These days delivery trucks prowl my neighborhood streets daily.  There is the ubiquitous Prime van, the jeep that delivers the mail, the big brown UPS truck, and a multitude of other vehicles delivering groceries, pharmaceuticals, take-out food, and almost anything else one could imagine.  This trend started years ago, but Covid accelerated it.  We all succumbed, and we all got used to it.  Deliveries helped us maintain isolation during the pandemic, but I fear that continued use of such services will increase our isolation as time goes on.

We used to get to know the people who came to our doors regularly, be they mail carrier or milkman.  Drivers are now on such tight schedules that they have no time to exchange words with us.  They do not even ring our doorbells, but rather send us a text or e-mail telling us the package is there and perhaps even enclosing a picture.  Meanwhile, our motion sensors often take pictures of them as they run to and away from our front door.  I don’t have any more relationship with the people who bring me my orders than I would have with a drone.  (I would, however, prefer not to have the drone.)

Now, this capability is wonderful for some older people who have trouble getting to the store, and I surely don’t begrudge any of us this service.  But the process is both non-geographic and impersonal.  We are not doing business locally (other than perhaps with orders from local restaurants or grocery stores), and we are not interacting with anyone to do it.  This worries me.

I also have a parallel concern about the number of storage units that are being built in my area – in all areas of this country.  For the last period for which I could get statistics, the industry expanded construction of units by 27% – this was in 2018 and the industry has certainly not stopped growing.  And deliveries have increased – aggregate statistics hare hard to come by, but some delivery services like Instacart have seen 500% growth and we all know how well Amazon is doing.  But does this all mean that much of the stuff we are ordering we are paying to store?  What is going on here?

Add to this, of course, the fact that we are watching movies at home, playing games online, and meeting our friends and relatives via Zoom.  Some of this will loosen when and if Covid gets under control, but some has become habit and convenience.  I think that social norms may have lapsed and changed in ways that cannot be fully restored.

Perhaps I have always been fascinated by the delivery services –  you might remember my story about the end of the world and the UPS man.  But if we are not going to interact with people in stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues, what will fill the void?  If the elderly can be “served” without human interaction, what has been lost? 

Again, I refer you to my new story, “Prime Time.”  I would also note that the very word on which Amazon stakes its relationship with us, prime, has particular connotations for the elderly, who may not be in what is traditionally labelled the “prime of life,” but who are still very much alive.  Keeping us off the road and out of the stores may be for our own good for now, but I fear it will be a lesser good in the long run.

 

2 thoughts on “The Wells Fargo Wagon

  1. Lovely story, wonderful post. Who knew that you starred on the stage with Jon Gillespie? I arrived in town too late to catch the show. Ah well…

    Be well,

    Michael

    Michael Gerrish 19 Rusfield Drive | Glenmont, NY 12077 MrG@WhyART.com 518.366.2853

    >

    Like

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