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Drawing the Line on Convenience

The new marketing tagline at Chick-fil-A read, “Lines are so last year.” It promoted Chick-fil-A One, which allows chicken-eaters to earn loyalty points to acquire free poultry. Also, in-app purchases allow customers to pay for their spicy fowl meat before entering the restaurant, meaning they can skip the lines and go right to the pickup counter. Faster fast food. No hassle.

Well, I am beginning to wonder if our present-day obsession with making experiences easier and tasks more convenient is turning us less human. David Michael Bruno

So, I have been giving some thought to inconvenience. All sorts of experiences have me thinking about this, but especially lines. Here’s what I want to know: does standing in line at Chick-fil-A actually do something good for my soul?

Look, even Disneyland’s Fastpass doesn’t eliminate the lines. What it does is allow Fastpass holders to skip the long line before entering a shorter long line. But think about what’s actually going on for a minute. I get a Fastpass. Welling up with smug pride, I briskly walk past the losers in the long line and take my rightful place among the privileged in the shorter long line. Get rid of the lines altogether and you’ve eliminated anthropology.

Oddly, some humans seem to think that’s already happened. Silly Neo, embodiment is so last year.

So what does this have to do with inconvenience? Well, I am beginning to wonder if our present-day obsession with making experiences easier and tasks more convenient is turning us less human. I’m mashing up Sherry Turkle, Nicholas Carr, Wendell Berry and Norman Wirzba in order to make a case for a minor theology of inconvenience, which also could be termed a minor theology of figuring out how to get through the long line of living like a human being.

I want to write one of those cool Alan Jacobs thought experiments right now. But Facebook Messenger keeps distracting me and I cannot concentrate. So I’m leaving it here for now.

Epilogue

Today was National Donut Day. First, what quantum computer algorithm is ever going to think up something as awesome as National Donut Day? Two, I took advantage of National Donut Day by foraging four quarters from my car and going to VG. The place has really good donuts. There always is a long line at VG. Out-the-door long. It is a right of passage to get to the counter and buy a warm maple bar that melts like hot lembas on the tongue. Today, an old woman asked if I would hold her place in line while she went and sat down because she wasn’t well enough to stand for long. (She was healthy enough to eat a raised cinnamon swirl, apparently.) And behind me in line was a mom with her three-year-old daughter. The little girl was almost as excited about the length of the line as she was anticipating the donut.

I repeat, eliminate the lines and you’ve eliminated anthropology.

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