Column Date 2011-01-21


Yesterday, it suddenly occurred to me that I not only pay over three bucks a gallon for gas, but I do all the work myself. I swipe my credit card.  I pump my gas. I clean my windshield. I check my tires.

I now pay a $3.00 fee to get my own money from my own bank, and I do all the work myself -- punching numbers and PIN codes into an ATM machine.

And at my supermarket, they want me to scan in all my purchases myself, run my credit card through myself, and then pack up my groceries myself.

Welcome to the "Do-It-Yourself" economy: companies have finally figured out they can make lots more money by having their customers do the work.

What’s next? Here’s an exclusive Tannen Weekly look into the future:

1. The Do-It-Yourself Hernia Operation. These days, state-of-the-art, computerized sewing and embroidery machines can be programmed to do almost anything. Add a few sterile needles, some appropriate pain-killers, a special room (with mirrors) at a local hospital and you’re good to go.

2. Do-It-Yourself eyeglasses. Machines that grind lenses are a commodity nowadays. And it’s only a matter of time before new computers and software let you select your frames and scan your doctor’s prescription into the machine. Moments later, a perfect pair of glasses pops out -- untouched by human hands.

3. The Virtual Dental Checkup. An exciting new dental concept, where a ‘mouth-blueprint’ is taken and all this information is embedded on a special credit card.

Swipe your card in the painless “Virtual Dental Technician” machine, and this robotic wonder will make sure that every millimeter of your teeth and gums are checked, scaled and cleaned. Plus, you have a choice of a soothing male or female voice telling you when to “rinse out please”.

To be fair though, there’s one area where this “Do It Yourself” philosophy doesn’t seem to be catching on at all.


It’s called ‘Democracy’ – an interesting experiment which calls for Americans to actually participate in the democratic process: to learn about the issues, and then go out and vote.


The majority of people, unfortunately, are too busy to do either, so a private club of mostly elderly senators and congressmen, many of whom remain in office for decades, make all the major decisions for the rest of us.


Maybe, if we actually accepted some responsibility, and took over democracy as a “Do It Yourself” project, we could actually solve some of the big problems facing our country.


I mean, if we’re happy pumping our own gas, couldn’t we spare a little time and run our own country?


Just a thought.






©2011 Peter Tannen