Modern urban decline

Technological innovation has now led us to new ways of discovering that your neighbourhood is going down the drain. And this was in dire need. Successful regulation has led to buildings being kept, cleaners and impeccable garbage collecting led to tidy streets, and mass produced clothing has led to decently dressed people. So how are you supposed to know if your neighbourhood is still up there? You will never guess the latest indicator.

Sure you can turn to the town hall, the Mairie, and find an elabourate report on composition of the neighbourhood, the number of accidents, the crime rate and so on. But other than that it is going up or down for your area, you still need an opinion about how “bad” it was in the first place. It is not easy. I think I have stumbled upon a simpler method, a much simpler method: buy some cake.

Even if the pastry in the local bakery is not a give-away of the quality of the area, it may still prove very enlightening. Buy one of those little cakes and you might discover a whole new piece of depressing technology – the automatic change dispenser. Yes, really. The smiling lady who used to give you your change, has been replaced by a robot! Well, in at least one bakery in the 13th district. The coins you feed into it yourself, the bills the lady feed in on the other side. The staff has no access to the money. Why do we need a robot to intervene exactly at the moment of human contact? Or more from a business perspective, when the baker is supposed to be making idle chit-chat with the customer in the hope of keeping their custom? A moment of thought would suggest that it must be something which is more important than the continued return of the patron. Since mistakes would not be very costly at a bakery -perhaps a few cents here and there- it must be the threat of theft.

But theft? Is the staff suspected or is it the clientele which steals the pennies from the people that bake our bread? Besides the depressing thought, if that is not a sign that your neighbourhood is not what it was, then nothing is. This must also be the single easiest technological give-away not to move into an area. Future buyers take note: test the local baguette not only for the bread, but also to know who gives you the change!

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