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There are any number of tell-tale signs that age is creeping up on you. It might be the over-exertion digging a drain in the weekend and barely being able to get out of bed come Monday morning. It may be losing your car keys far more often than you used to or forgetting someone’s name whom you never use to forget. Believe me, though, there is no clearer indication that age is ravaging you than your first trip to the Podiatrist. Wonky feet (aside from Orthotists) are the domain of the old right? So it was with trepidation that I presented myself to a local Podiatrist the other day for my first ever consultation.

First impressions are everything in business. So I take-in the atmosphere of the waiting room. I notice GPs nowadays have big screens with TV and adverts running in tandem. Not so the little Podiatric (is that a word?) practice I took myself to. It had a large rotating stand, a bit like you might see at an Optometrists, but with angled hooks. Proudly on display were the potential purchase options if a sub-optimal opinion was brought down on your feet. There were plenty to choose from mark my words. Imelda Marcoss would have not been that disappointed. But the choice!

There used to be a folksy set of guidelines handed down by chaste Mums and nuns that suggested that in choosing a potential suitor a woman should look at a guy’s watch and shoes. If both passed muster then a suitable life-mate he would be. Take my word for it, if you purchased from the array of footwear available at my Podiatrist you have a spinster’s life ahead of you. Surely those designing footwear for the Orthotically challenged need a lesson from Apple. Don’t over concentrate on function at the expense of form.

So what was my waiting experience like? I’m used to the big screen experience at my health care professionals. Even my Dentist has one strapped somewhat precariously I think to the ceiling so I can look at it while my teeth are examined. It’s nearly always on Sky News so I get a rolling tickertape of the latest atrocities from ISIL, IS, Islamic State, Daesh or Faesh while my teeth are prodded and probed.   I wouldn’t like to be in that dentist chair today watching the inexorable slide of the ASX200 following the Greek people’s vote in the referendum. I’d be sucking a lot of air is all I can say!

Back to my Podiatrist. There were magazines – old school I thought. I leafed through Reader’s Digests and National Geographics. The most recent edition I could lay my hands on was 1987. To provide some historical perspective here the first search engine for the internet was WebCrawler launched in 1994!

I’m leaving out the best part. I approached the receptionist -an older bloke in a cardigan – you know the one like your Grandad used to wear with the two buttons at the bottom and knitted-in pockets, to register. He asked my name and as I was new expected that there would be the usual data entry to get me on the system/into the database. With some glee he pulled out a blank card and proceeded to write the word “NAME” followed by a very precise colon “: ” He wrote all my details in long hand and upon getting my address wrong reached into his desk and pulled out some whiteout and meticulously corrected the mistake. The smell of thinners that hit me as I entered the premises was not, it appeared, the alcohol rub used by the Podiatrist, but seemingly the correction fluid used by the receptionist. A quick glance at the appointments book confirmed my suspicions. It was a mass of corrected and scribbled out entries as the receptionist clearly struggled on a daily and weekly basis to do what a computer now does in a trice.

At that point I admit to looking around for cameras to assure myself that I hadn’t been caught in some reality TV time warp show when the participants go back in time to see how they would cope. The era I’m guessing would have been late 60s to mid 70s.

So how was my experience? To my relief my foot was pronounced as repairable and not needing a clodhopper. The Podiatrist did say I would be best off in boots though. Phew close escape there. Would I go back to this quaint slice of the 1970’s, bereft of any business automation let alone a computer? Well yes I would, for a couple of reasons. It was 30 minutes in my highly data-rich life when I felt I wasn’t being data-mined or regarded as just a number. It gave me time to reflect on the huge impact that technology has made on our lives and how ingrained it has become in every aspect of our life even the most intimate (appointments with our health care professionals). Secondly and most importantly (and maybe because the absence of technology) I was made to feel special – a person, not a unique identifying number. Every person who entered as I was waiting or leaving was greeted by name without recourse to an electronic database, but just the old-fashioned grey-matter database of someone who cares.

We can learn a lot about business from visits to other businesses. Some good, some not so good and some downright spooky! Sometimes we do well in business if we cherish our customers and don’t mess with a good thing. In other words don’t put our foot in it.