Saturday, October 11, 2008

Delusions of Competency

More and more, I'm starting to think that people should have to be tested for competency before they're allowed to use different kinds of technology.

What I mean is that before someone is issued, say, a debit or ATM card that requires them to use something like the little terminals in the grocery store, there should be some way of ensuring that the individual actually knows how to use the card before being turned loose on an unsuspecting public. If they can't demonstrate competency, they simply aren't given it in the first place.

I bring this up because a couple of days ago, I was in line (yes, at the grocery store) behind someone that wanted to use a debit/credit card of some kind to pay for their stuff. The problem was that the person basically had no idea how to do it: first, they ran the card through the reader the wrong way no less than 3 times, then had to have it explained to them which button to push for their particular card (after they guessed wrong TWICE), another explanation of what a "PIN" was (followed by much soul-searching as they tried to recall what it was), and ending with being told that they also had to press another button to actually approve the debit. All in all, what should have been perhaps 30 seconds ended up occupying a good five minutes. Throughout it all, the clerk demonstrated an inordinate level of patience and tolerance; I'd have been tempted to tell the moron to give up and go home.

Similarly, I've been behind people at an ATM who act like it's the first time in their entire life that they've encountered such a thing: that all the menus and other on-screen information is in a foreign language, and that each press of a button results in the machine doing anything BUT what they want it to -- so that they have to completely stop what they're doing and try it again (perhaps even a couple of times) from scratch while the line builds behind them.

As part of the 'licensing' process, there would be a probationary period after someone gets a particular bit of technical equipment -- the idea being that they not only have to demonstrate they know HOW to operate it, but WHEN, as well: an induhvidual using their shiny new cell phone in a theater gets the phone taken away for a period equal to the probationary period, for example.

I don't think it'll ever happen, but I can always dream, can't I?

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