I find the trend of diminishing services to be ironic since we are in a culture of mostly stressed-out individuals who are having to do more for themselves. We also have tons of gadgets that allow us to be with ourselves. I'm getting pretty tired of the word self.

The other day I noticed that my local supermarket had a section where you can check out your own groceries. But I like having a clerk do it for me, because it's fun to talk to someone while they deftly bag my stuff.

It is such a relief when I find a gas station that has a person pumping the gas. I don't want to get out of my car in the freezing weather and try to twist the cap off and end up smelling like an oil field. My credit card never seems to fit into the slot correctly, and I end up trying to jam it in, which simply leaves me twitching.

Whatever happened to the guys who pumped the gas and washed the windows? I loved them. They even looked under the hood to see if everything was OK. Did they all pass away along with Milton Berle?

I'm surprised we still have pilots flying planes, although there is an autopilot so maybe they are not really in the cockpit.

I find this trend of diminishing services to be ironic since we are in a culture of mostly stressed-out individuals who are having to do more for themselves.

We also have tons of gadgets that allow us to be with ourselves. You can tune people out by listening to your iPod, play video games by yourself or spend hours on your computer. I understand you can now also create a faux self that stands in for the self you would like to be.

When I was growing up, that was called crazy.

In fact, I'm getting pretty tired of the word self. When did we get so invested in ourselves? Books abound that deal with living your real self, discovering yourself, making yourself over and hundreds of other ways to purge yourself and rid yourself of anyone and anything that's toxic to yourself.

Talk shows spend hours talking to people about themselves, and we spend hours watching them. Then we discuss them with other people who might have missed the show. We seem to be in an era of self-analysis that could lead to self-paralysis.

How much time can we spend figuring ourselves out?

Most of us know what's wrong with us. It's just easier to keep going over it than doing something about it. Dr. Martin Seligman, author of "Authentic Happiness," states in his book that many of the ills we
experience as a culture - such as depression, anxiety, stress and
loneliness - have come about by the shift from "we to me."

Our grandparents were more focused on neighbors and community, and they shopped in neighborhood stores where they chatted with everyone.

Maybe it's time to have more service, rather than less, and maybe we should to try to get over ourselves.

Author, humorist, PBS star and Fortune 500 trainer Loretta LaRoche lives in Plymouth, Mass. To share your pet peeves, questions or comments, write to The Humor Potential, 50 Court St., Plymouth, MA 02360, send e-mail to getalife@lorettalaroche.com, visit the Web site at www.stressed.com, or call 800-99-TADAH (82324).