Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Call of Technology

I called a friend on my cell phone last night.
I was heading home and my friend and I had made one of those tentative sorta maybe kinda plans to perhaps do something the next day. I didn’t want to call too late, so I dialed her up from my truck on my way home. We talked for about forty-five minutes – the drive home is only about ten minutes, so I spent half an hour or so wandering around my house talking on the cell phone.
“How long have you had your cell phone?” she asked.
“About two and a half years,” I replied. Since I live almost to an hour away from the store I own, I had decided it would be a necessity in case of an emergency.
“Don’t you feel weird walking around talking on one of those?”
“No,” I replied. I didn’t mention that the only time I ever felt weird talking on it was when I was downtown reporting on a spy mission I’d just done for someone. It’s hard to be discreet while shouting to be heard over cars, buses, trucks, and bongo drumming street kids. Someone yelling, “They didn’t suspect a thing!” into a phone in the middle of a large, metropolitan downtown core attracts a variety of worried and questioning glances.
“Well, I don’t have one,” she said. “I don’t even have a microwave oven or a dishwasher.”
I knew she didn’t have a dishwasher because every time I visit her house she starts doing the dishes. What I didn’t realize was that she was lacking a microwave. I have one – I just can’t remember the last time I used it. “I do things the old fashioned way,” she said.
It’s not that my friend is a Luddite – she’s had plenty of computer training and could run rings around me on Excel or Lotus, although I could probably do the same to her on Duke Nukem 3D. But the sentiment she’s expressing is one you hear all too frequently these days – enough with technology, already.
The pace of modern life is increasing exponentially. I’m working harder and harder to fall further and further behind. I am being assimilated by the mind control drone-toadies of the corporate thought-cults. Resistance is futile. Greed is good. Money is everything. Last year’s annual report is this year’s religious relic.
And the rapid advance of the technology that is supposed to make my life simpler just makes it more frustrating. Thanks to e-mail, cell phones, ELTs, fax, voicemail, GPS, modems, call forwarding, pagers, answering machines and satellite communication I can be reached twenty-four hours a day by anyone.
The bottom line is that I am no longer unreachable. I no longer have an excuse to be inaccessible. I can’t leave work behind because it follows me everywhere, hanging on my belt like a leech. I’ve been called at the beach, in my truck, on a date, in my sleep, and yes, in my bathroom. And worse yet, most of the time I get phoned for idiotic reasons:
“Yeah, John? This is Svend at the store.”
“Hi, Svend. What’s up?”
“Yeah. There was this guy who wanted to sell you some new maps.”
“Uh huh.”
“So I told him you weren’t here.”
“Great. Thanks.”
“Is that okay?”
“I wasn’t there, was I?”
“Ahh, nope.”
“Then that was fine.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, bye.”
And another 75 cents gets transferred from my coffers to Cantel’s. Having a cell phone is a convenience, but often it’s an annoying and frustrating convenience. Sort of like public transit. My staff rarely calls me on the cell phone anymore because I usually get annoyed at them unless they’re calling about a disaster on the magnitude of my business burning down. (Now they get their revenge by leaving long, rambling messages on my answering machine at home.)
The point is that all these technological delights are taking away our humanity. E-mail – who would’ve thought that anyone would get worked up about a phone call you type? I don’t want to be linked to machines, I want to be linked to people.
A home in the country, fields of daisies, and not a cell phone in sight – some days that sounds pretty darn good.

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