Coping with the Computer Age

This happened a few days back. As my monthly travel pass was about to expire, I went to the railway station to get it renewed. To avoid the peak hour rush at the platform level booking office, I chose to use the booking office on the foot over bridge, which people rarely used. There were very few people ahead of me, and few more came after me in the line in sometime. The person at the counter was old, and quite slow, which seemed to be due to his age. People in line ahead of me, were getting restless and and kept on passing comments at his slow speed. Eventually, it was my turn to book my pass. I noticed that his speed, the lack of it rather, was not due to his age, but due to the modern system that he was using to issue the tickets. It was taking him some time with me because he was unable to call up the name of my destination station on the screen, using the short codes used by the computer. He actually didn’t know the short code for my station, because it was out of the way from the regular route, and would have been rarely used by him. People behind me were getting restless and kept on taunting this man. Finally he had had enough of it, and burst out in anger, yelling that they could go to other booking windows if they were in a hurry.

People would see this as the lax attitude of government employees. Many feel that this man, or people like him, do not want to put in enough efforts to learn the job in new way, because of their laziness. Some say that the government should lower the retirement age so that people like him are out of the system, making way for younger generation.

I would say that this man was one of the best ticket issuing person in his days, when they had the old card system. Maybe, he could blindly take out the correct card ticket from the correct shelf for each and every ticket he issued, during those days. But these computer!! He is unable to get the hang of the intimidating user interface, or the QWERTY keyboard. He had never applied for a typing job, never taken a typing course, and now was not the age to speed up. The railways booking system was upgraded, but they couldn’t upgrade the man simply because, he was not upgradable!! He had a job which he did perfectly well till now, but a small machine has rendered him less of use, more of an obstacle in the system.

So what should the person do? Put in more efforts towards learning the system? Believe me, it’s difficult to get older people to learn how to use mobile phones to their fullest potential. Forget the computers. Above that, programmers design the user interfaces, thinking that a scientist would be using it, not a layman.

So should the person leave his job and retire? What about all the financial commitments he has back home? His son has to go to college this year. And his wife is not keeping well. So will his pension meet his needs? People!! This person is a ticket issuer at the railway counter, not the owner of the railways, who can afford luxuries of leaving his job before retirement.

Why not change our attitude towards him? Why not take it a bit easy with him? If we are always in a hurry, which we always are, why not use the other automated systems that the railways have put in place for us?

Think us to be him in a few years. Some crazy scientist invents a gizmo, and the world, the younger generation, accepts it gladly, in lieu of the computers, which we are masters at. Should we be expected to be masters at the new gizmo? Some of us will be able to learn it. Not all of us. It will be something out of the world for us, at that time. Just think of an old man who excitedly tells someone, how a computer popped up his photo on the screen, while we take it for granted, and laugh at this man behind his back. We will be this old man in few years!! Do we want to be laughed at, taunted behind our back, when we grow old? It’s not for the old people to catch up with us. It’s for us to slow down things for them.

Needless to say, I didn’t get my pass at that window. I didn’t complain. How could I, given the circumstances?


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