Desperately Searching for a Human Being

I was watching a movie from a few years ago and saw a scene that would be considered implausible today, almost laughable. A woman was on the phone with an airline employee, asking if there were any flights out of Mexico the next day. Not only was the woman able to talk to a real person, the airline staffer found a flight and booked it for her. It’s hard to believe there was a time when you could get true customer service. But we seniors can remember—and lament what’s changed.

Last week, I was clearing out old tax returns, some from the 1980s. In one stack I found a postcard from an IRS agent, politely asking me to call her about an unresolved tax issue. Included was her name and phone number. That meant I would have had a direct line to the agent instead of spending an hour going through a phone tree that offered multiple and confusing options. This is the new world we live in, far different than the one most of us grew up in.

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Traveling With Technology

As we, two older women, approached the United Airlines ticketing counter to check our bags and get our boarding passes, I was initially disoriented. Instead of the long lines I’m accustomed to, I saw only a handful of people, and I didn’t see any ticketing agents behind the counters. Had we come to the right place? Had I misread or failed to see the signs for ticketing as we walked from where we had dropped off our rental car?

I approached the automated kiosk and fumbled to get the piece of paper out of my purse that had the confirmation code to access my reservation. But as I did so, an airline staffer must have seen or sensed our confusion. Or maybe he was trained to spot old people who are technology-hesitant, who take too long to answer all the questions on the screen and thus slow down the whole system. He quickly pushed all the right buttons on the kiosk, efficiently wrapped our tags around the suitcases and took them to the conveyor belt, handed us the printed boarding passes and sent us on our way.

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Breakfasts of My Youth

I recently received a gift of several grapefruit, a fruit I rarely eat and one I associate with my childhood. It was the staple of my family’s breakfasts, along with orange juice and seemingly unlimited amounts of milk. Several decades ago, I stopped drinking OJ when a doctor told me it had too much sugar. And I stopped eating grapefruit when I found out it interfered with a medication I was taking.

Is nothing sacred? Although we grew up being told that we needed milk for strong bones, now we’re told that milk and other dairy products are the top source of saturated fat in the American diet, contributing to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Studies have also linked dairy to an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.

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