What's All This Then?

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

I Pod, I Pad, I Pid, I Pidddle. And I can’t help it. Every time I hear about the Pods and the Pads, none of which I understand - I am transported back to my school days and Latin classes. Amo, Amas. Mensa, Mensae. It made about as much sense to me then as the Pods an Pads do today - but at least no one looked down on you as being "out of touch" if we didn’t walk around with a couple of Latin verbs and nouns prominently displayed. Today, one begins to feel like an outsider when everyone else is involved with Facebook and Twitter and I read about "texting while driving" becoming a ticketable offense." I will admit to owning a cell phone. But it’s not set up to text and though it has a minor photographic ability, I would be a poor excuse for a witness if I were to come across a crime in progress.

I use Google as my home page because it’s simple and convenient, but I am suspicious of that Internet juggernaut and I have described some of my suspicions here on more than one occasion.

I am not averse to progress in the worlds of communication and information storage and use, but I am concerned about the effect it is having on our ability to function without what that progress has created. For example - and if I’ve told this story before, I beg your indulgence - my wife and I were out to dinner some time ago - we had placed our order and were waiting to be served. And waiting and waiting. That wasn’t usually the case in this restaurant, so we finally hailed the waiter and asked what was going on. The computer had broken down or had stalled or in some other way wasn’t processing the orders. Without a functioning computer, the kitchen and wait staff were helpless!! You have to wonder how the world’s fine dining establishments were able to serve great food in a timely fashion before the age of the computer.

You may have experienced - as I have - an airline delay that wasn’t caused by weather or heavy travel days - but by a computer problem. How those planes got off the ground in the pre computer age is little understood by today’s travelers - or by airline employees for that matter!! In the computer age, you and I go grocery shopping and the check out process is dependent upon a computerized scanning system. No check out clerk who knows the price of everything you’re buying and is capable of punching buttons on a cash register. In most supermarkets, you don’t even need to deal with a check out clerk. The self check out scanner is quicker and easier.

If we live anywhere in the industrial world, we live in a world hugely dependent on computers and communication devices and it’s impossible to avoid all of them. The most we can do is to resist the measure of intrusion they try to impose on our lives. Obviously, I have been seduced by the lure of the blogosphere. The opportunity to create what amounts to a body of literary work that is permanently saved and can be read at any moment by any one of millions of people with computer access around the world is hard to resist for anyone with a lot of opinion and at least a smidgen of ego. But that’s as far as I am willing to go. I’ll use those items of communication that are useful to me - and obviously those that I cannot avoid. But I will not heed the siren call of Facebook or Twitter or Blagger or Bligger or whatever the next mind stifling gizmo that its promoters will insist you cannot live without will be called. I do not wish to access the Internet as I walk along the street. I do not wish to own a pod, a pad, a berry of any color or anything that turns my teeth blue.

As I’ve said, I’m not averse to progress in the age of the computer, but I’m concerned about how lost millions of us might become if we were suddenly deprived of all the aforementioned gizmos - even for a short time Will grocery clerks be able to tot up what we owe without scanners? Will cooks be able to cook and waiters wait at a formula chain restaurant? Will airlines be able know how many tickets have been sold for a particular flight and have it leave the departure gate close to an advertised time? How well would any of us function if we were figuratively transported back to a time before the things we rely on to function in today’s world did not yet exist? Will Twitters and Facebookers remember how to communicate without a computer?

I don’t claim that refusing to purchase a pod or a pad or declining invitations to be someone’s Facebook "friend" will stand me in better stead than one whose life is imbued with all of these things, but I’m pretty sure that while I don’t feel the slightest bit "lost" or confused without them - they would be if they were deprived of them for any length of time. I like feeling that way and I plan to continue to live as an outsider - padless, podless and unable to text my way out of a paper bag.