Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Convenience Is Not Always Convenient

I went to a funeral parlor recently to pay my respects. About an hour later, I heard a call on the scanner for the coroner to meet the rescue unit at the parlor; someone had fallen over dead. "Convenient," I thought; "you're right there when your time comes."

We had a youngish guy over at the courthouse waiting for his hearing on drug charges. He excused himself for a minute to make a bathroom stop and, while there, decided to do a joint. One of the guards smelled it and now he is up on two charges.

In my efficient mind, it seems good to have a given action occur where the following action will take place. It's so tidy, so neatly packaged. Whether the event is good, bad or indifferent, it's compact.

Life should be such. Unfortunately, we're seldom at the right place at the right time. I know I'm not. When it comes time to cash in, it would be my luck to be traveling somewhere and get lost, stop at the only store in sight --a porn shop-- to get directions, and have a massive coronary at the counter. “Thomas Carten died Friday at the ‘Peek-a-Boo Adult Games and Barely Legal Shop’ on the highway.”

The old days of going “Downtown,” as we called our trips over to Bridgeport, are pretty much over. Leave the car at the railroad station parking lot, walk up a block or two to Howland’s Department Store, then maybe to Jack Bowman’s Record Store, make a stop at the bank, stop in at Leavitt’s Department Store for lunch (we took at ticket at the automatic turnstile when we went in; I never knew why), then a quick stop at the Thom McAn shoe store and perhaps go up to the elevated railroad station and see if any Boston to New York (or opposite) trains were passing through.

Now it’s convenience. The Super Stop & Shop has just about everything except the shoe store and the railroad. Ah, wait a moment – the railroad goes by just behind the store, so we still have that. You need a bank? A florist? Some recorded music? Whatever you need is there, all so conveniently laid out. What it doesn’t have are the storefronts you pass as you go from one store to another, places which remind you that you needed some product, some service.

Convenience has its cost, and that is the loss of storefronts, of smells, of businesses with clerks who are older than 20 and know their trade. Now that I think of it, that’s the real convenience.