Friday, February 1, 2019

Deliver Us From....Delivery


This Sunday is the "big game," and we are guaranteed as Americans to have pizza and other food delivery drivers scrambling to satiate us as we gather at parties to sit in front of the huge television we had delivered just the other day to make the sports spectacle all the more spectacular. Lately, though, it seems that "delivery season" has stretched to encompass the entire calendar year, and that should stir some unease at the very least.

Our delivery culture has arguably made us more isolated and dependent, physically weaker, overspent financially, and turned us into hoarders of a sort. It continues if not accelerates the idea that material things are all that matters, all that gives us comfort and joy. It bloats not only our consumption of products, but adds to our waste of energy and other natural resources. We have come to embrace convenience as our social and economic god, above all else.

"Free shipping" encourages mindless binge shopping because we can simply add an item to the shopping cart icon, no muss, no fuss. People who bought this also purchased this, and so we want to keep up with the Joneses. We are slaves to fashion, marketing and advertising, peer influence, and the "influencers" we follow on social media. Strike that. We are shamed by those manipulative factors.

My own home looks more like a warehouse these days, in part to my deceased mother's and father's belongings that we relocated to our house from their storage lockers. Still, we seem to accumulate more boxes almost weekly from purchases my spouse makes online. That is not to say she is impulsive. Neither of us spends much on material goods beyond what we need. We tend to "upgrade" sporadically. Despite our best intentions, we are tripping over Amazon containers.

Let us think for a moment about all that extra packaging that goes into delivery, most of it disposable, too often like the products inside them. We tell ourselves we can re-use the boxes, but are defeated in trying to strip off all the tape and labels and barcodes. In the end we often just dump them in the recycling bin if we are lucky enough to have recycling services. Our food orders come in styrofoam, plastic, or maybe cardboard boxes, all inside a trash-worthy plastic bag. Wasteful, even as we are laughing at the new handheld gadget that comes in a cubic foot box.

Perhaps the scariest part of our obsession with delivery is that virtually all of the vehicles used to bring things to our homes are fossil-fuel dependent. Maybe some couriers employ electric cars, or bicycle messengers, but the range of both are geographically small and microscopic respectively. Delivery drones have not become commonplace despite promises to the contrary, but I for one think that is a good thing. I loathe the prospect of a future full of the incessant whining of tiny rotors from drones passing overhead.

The growth of delivery services has become almost exponential. Restaurant food delivery alone is becoming the norm, though ironically restaurants still call such customers "guests." Options like Grubhub, DoorDash, and now UberEats make it uncomfortably easy to never leave your home or apartment except, maybe, to commute to and from work. One can see the day where Uber and Lyft are transporting more goods than they are human passengers.

We cannot, of course, ignore the social ramifications of delivery. The only way we can deliver ideas, sentiments, passion, and other vital currencies of society to each other, powerfully, is in-person. Conversation has been replaced with keystrokes. We are allowing corporations to have the only voice, the only authority, in our lives. We meekly accept the invasion of our privacy as a logical consequence of convenience, individualized marketing on Facebook as the price we pay for our otherwise anonymous participation in the economy. Oh, we complain about it. We mourn the closing of our favorite bookseller, hardware store, bakery, and other local businesses, but fail to see how our shopping habits led to their demise.

We are also up-in-arms over thieves that steal the packages off our porches, but now we have spyware for that....The snowball of technology keeps rolling, right over us as we lie listlessly on the couch, with Netflix and Hulu, the new delivery streams for media. Maybe we need to re-think this. Maybe we....Excuse me, I believe I just heard the doorbell.

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