Economic recession and advancing technology has doomed an American institution, the parking lot attendant.
It's not just the poor soul who worked at 3 a.m. in a dark lot on the edge of downtown who's been sent to the unemployment line.
It's the guy who stood front and center in a cramped booth at the best joint in town, waving hello, taking tickets, making change, offering jumper cables, giving directions, and generally serving as a goodwill ambassador for his employer and his city.
On a recent visit to my local downtown major-league hotel on a lively Saturday night, I found the attendant booth abandoned.
Replacing the formerly employed contributor to our nation's tax rolls was a do-it-yourself payment albatross that had more slots and buttons than a Las Vegas slot machine.
Slide cash in the slot? Rejected because of folds in the bill. Slide a credit card in the other slot? Not reading at all. Did I mention the half-dozen handwritten, paper directions taped every which-way on the mechanical beast offering helpful instructions to speed the transaction that contradicted the manufacturer's directions stamped on It?
In better times, ol' Fred would have poked his head out of the booth, took some cash, opened the gate and sent me on my way with a heartfelt "have a good day."
That good day for both of us has long passed.