The older I get, the less patient I have become with new technology. Maybe this is normal. Maybe I’ve become one of those old dogs who can’t learn new tricks. Maybe. Strange, I always welcomed new gadgets and gizmos in my life, often being one of those “early adopters” that marketers like to talk about.
Lately, I shy away from the latest and greatest new computers or i-phones or tablets or whatever. I tend to stick with what I know and I don’t need to know no more. I’m avoiding buying a new PC because mine is still running Windows 7 and that’s fine with me. My blue tooth is tinged with coffee stains and my formerly adoptive brain is now conflicted between complacent and impatient. Besides, new technology has given us some pretty intrusive annoyances lately. Oddly, they’re all tied to one of the oldest pieces of technology we all can’t live without—the telephone.
Number one on my list are robo-calls, those incessant computer-generated phone calls that disturb us constantly, usually at the most inconvenient moment…I wonder how they know? I am so tired of being solicited to donate to some fraternal order of whatever, or succumb to an energy evaluation of my house, or being forewarned that some government agency is investigating me. It’s only a matter of time before they invade my cell phone; some already have.
And how about the phone itself? What was once a talking instrument used to verbally communicate between people is now a picture-taking dictation machine. I’ve noticed most younger folks no longer use their phone to talk to one another. Instead, it’s a keyboard on which to tap out short messages telling their associates things like what they’re having for lunch, followed up by a picture of their asiago hummus-stuffed pita.
My phone is an i-Phone 5. It’s considered an antique despite the fact that it has a gazillion functions I’ll never use. It can probably shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile. To tell you the truth, I really wouldn’t know since I can barely answer a call when it rings or vibrates or flashes. It never does the same thing consistently. I’ll repeat the identical steps to answer a call or retrieve a voicemail and sometimes it gets me there and sometimes it gets me somewhere else. My grandkids say it’s me and they tell me I don’t know how to use it. My wife says the phone knows I hate it and acts out as a result. I say the phone is possessed. I kept missing calls yesterday despite it being nearby. My wife discovered the “do not disturb” function was activated. Who did that? I never touched it. In fact, I didn’t even know the phone had such a function.
Anything else on my mind? Sure, how about data collection. The collection and processing of our emotions has become a fine science. I’m talking about the new obsession with customer surveys. You can’t even use a stall in the men’s room at a department store without being e-mailed later asking how your experience was. Don’t ask how they get your e-mail address. That’s about as sacred anymore as your social security number. All this data being expressed and retrieved has got to eventually explode…or maybe it has, given the colossal failure of all the polls before the latest presidential election.
And finally, the forever frustrating robotic customer service process we all have to go through when we call a company with a question about some product or service we’re involved with. Despite yelling “representative” a hundred times and hitting the “zero” on the touch pad just as often, we are at the mercy of the pre-selected process which will deviate not one iota until you finally get to talk with a live, real human being who either has a defective microphone or speaks with such a strong accent that you have no idea what he/she is saying.
So the telephone plays a primary role in all these situations. I wonder if Alexander ever thought his invention would lead to such suffering for all us old folks. I sure look back with fondness to the old telephone we had when I was a kid. It had a rotary dial and the phone number started with a two-letter abbreviation for the area in which we lived. Our number was CH7-7554. CH was for Chestnut Hill. That was some 60 years ago. I’m tempted to dial the number and see if anyone answers. It will more than likely be a recording telling me to listen to the new menu of options since they have recently changed.