Reaching Out

is this on 0320It turns out, I live in a technological backwater. I knew I personally was not hip and with it, but it turns out I am not alone, as I discovered over and over yesterday.

On Monday Pat’s held its first Skype meeting, with Fortino, James and I at the shop and Kara and Vann calling in from their homes. Left out were Jeff, who may not own a computer, and Gilly, whose e-mail address is still from Hotmail. Gilly who won’t use the Google calendar that drives our days and still relies on pen and paper for everything she does at work.

As someone who is forever handing my phone to younger colleagues and asking them to fix whatever I pushed that makes it not work right, I not only tolerate but completely understand Gilly’s reluctance to embrace this bold new world. And it’s so difficult to figure out which technologies to adopt. I mean, Beta or VHS? It’s a total crapshoot.

Yesterday the county’s retail task force held its first Zoom meeting, This was a subset from the rah-rah cheerleading “meeting” Kara and I watched last week, and it went a lot better than that first meeting, although the moderators missed the comments as they took place. One retailer/service provider sent in a note saying he is very concerned about keeping staff on. One of the moderators asked — foolishly, really — if that was anyone else’s concern. Kara, much closer to the screen than me, reported that about 20 people instantly typed “yes,” but the moderators didn’t see these replies until several minutes later, then were confused as to what everyone was responding to.

The task force chair, who said her worst day in business came last Friday when she let her entire staff go, including herself —

[This leaves her husband as the company’s sole employee, and it’s made me think that while we talk about investment diversification, that might be something to consider in employment, since offhand I can think of numerous couples and family units who lost all income when their businesses were deemed non-essential.]

–talked about trying to ramp up on-line capabilities, noting that her business has a “static” website, but no active on-line store. The Pat’s website still features numerous employees who have moved on, and it wasn’t until Monday that I had James sit down to begin crafting an on-line store for our retail designs. We have on-line options for some of our customers, but it’s clear, now, with Lasik-focused hindsight, that we should have already been doing this for ourselves.

Trying to support the area’s few open restaurants has really convinced me of this community’s collective lack of technological prowess. I’ve heard of big-city conveniences like Grub Hub, and right now this seems like something Gunnison should look into.

Saturday Lynn and I tried to patronize Mario’s or The Dive, two side-by-side restaurants owned by people married to each other with one managed by a niece (once again, rising or falling together). Using Facebook, at which I have zero proficiency, it seemed like Mario’s should have been open for take-out from noon to 2, but no one answered the phone. We waited and tried again at dinnertime, when the owner himself answered the phone, and we got huge portions of fish and chips from The Dive to bring home.

The lone employee who was not an owner tried explaining the schedule to me, but I got lost early in the conversation. At least I was able to find a phone number and the pared-down menus for both restaurants in one on-line location.

Last night, I started by trying to call Cafe Silvestre, where nearly every employee is a member of the same family. They have no on-line presence other than Google offering a discontinued phone number and a location map. The paper phone book I still own offered the same discontinued phone number, so Lynn and I drove to town, where a sign on their door said “To Go Orders Only,” with a different phone number. Standing outside the door, I called the number, and could hear the phone ringing inside — but no one answered.

On Saturday we had seen Agave’s open sign flashing, so we tried there next. Lynn finally located their phone number in tiny lettering on a decorative item in the window. A small boy hopped down from a stool just inside the window, and a woman whose English was not great (nonetheless, better than my non-existent Spanish), told me to go on-line to look at their menu. Lynn’s phone spun and spun, but wanted a wireless network. You would think someone inside could have come put a menu against the window, but since our business seemed to be too much trouble for them, we moved on.

We finally found food at Gunnison Pizza Company, although they had been closed Saturday with no sign or explanation. They are located right next to 5B’s Barbecue (another family-owned operation), whose sign says “dine in/carry out/catering,” but it is closed, like a lot of restaurants in town that have always seemed capable of offering take-out and/or delivery.

Gunnison normally has an extraordinarily high per capita restaurant/bar scene, and it ought to be a very short window before everyone tires of eating their own cooking and is willing to take a chance on take-out food (a food safety article I read noted that restaurant workers are far more versed in sanitary practices than the people who stock grocery shelves where we are all still shopping with very few controls and no oversight), but if most of our restaurants are not technologically proficient, they are going to rely on people like Lynn and me, willing to spend a full hour driving around, trying to find someone open, with a phone number and a posted menu.

While I am no longer on the Cattlemen’s Days Committee, no one has ever taken me off their e-mail list, and yesterday the secretary sent out a notice cancelling tonight’s meeting. Another committee member, one of the few Washed (as opposed to the greater-than-I-imagined Unwashed), has suggested meeting via either Zoom or Skype and that anyone who has a computer or phone could attend. It will be interesting to see how many takers he gets.

I imagine our country — indeed, the very world — is full of shoulda coulda woulda these days. Our task now is not to buy into a complacency espoused by the highest office in our land but to assume there is going to be a new normal, even when a vaccine and/or treatments are found. If you think about the way you lived your travel life on Sept. 10, 2001, versus how it worked a few weeks ago when people were still traveling, you will realize that outsize events have lasting impacts.

To pretend that we will all go back to the way we were seems naive. One local pet store owner, interviewed in last week’s paper, said she was afraid her customers would start ordering from on-line places like Chewy and decide it’s so simple and easy that they won’t come back to her.

I think that ought to be a worry for all brick and mortar retail, wherever we are, even as Amazon goes on a hiring spree. Either we all makes ourselves Amazonian subsidiaries, or we figure out how to make our shopping similarly painless.

Whether Gilly and I want to be there or not, it is already a bold new (on-line) world, and we need to get with it or get left behind in a choking cloud of silicon particles.


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