I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by technology.
And…that’s a shame … because I think it means I’m not young anymore. I can still remember the first microwave my parents ever bought; my mother was terrified of my using it without her supervision (which, translated, meant “standing two feet away and staring at what my hands were doing”). She was certain anything I put in there would cause the universe to explode.
And, I can remember the first VCR Dad ever bought. No, the blinking 12:00 on the front of this scary, hulking box wasn’t too much of a concern… but every time he’d put in a movie, the FBI warning would come up on the screen and Mom would freak. EVERY SINGLE TIME. She was certain the police were on their way over to arrest us (that is, if the house was still standing because we hadn’t blown it with the microwave).
So, when I say that I’m “overwhelmed” by technology, I type those words with some anxiety. I don’t want to be shamed and ridiculed by my younger relatives …although I suppose I deserve that, given what I just wrote about my beloved parents. On the other hand, I can remember Mom poking fun at Grandma because, when she found out Mom was going to fly to California on a real airplane, Grandma (who was scared to death of planes and would never fly anywhere) warned, “When you’re on the plane, Betty, be careful and don’t open the window.” So … I guess ridiculing our elders’ fear of progress is something we all do, and maybe that makes it okay. Or maybe this is just payback time for yours truly.
But honestly, I think my inner hard drive is running out of RAM, because lately technology has succeeded in making me feel creeped out or, at the very least, really, really stupid.
So today I felt like giving you my top five favorite technological turn-offs.
Now, before I go there, let me just say I love most technology. Digital cable is right up there with my Kindle, my Keurig and my iPad as one of the greatest joys of my life. But here’s some stuff I probably would have been happier without:
1) "No touch” technology in public restrooms…specifically, I hate faucets and paper towel dispensers that involve me having to make wild gestures in order to get them to do something. Faucets should be turned on by turning a knob. Paper towels should be dispensed by cranking a handle. I shouldn’t have to frantically wave at something to get it to acknowledge me. (And don’t you just love it when they’re broken and you feel like a total fool, waving and waving and waving and nothing happens?) There are Some Wise Folks who say, “But motion-activation saves on germs.” Really? Last time I looked, people are still out here getting sick. And when it comes to germ avoidance, when was the last time you kicked the bathroom door open with your foot? Or positioned your posterior on top of the toilet without brushing against porcelain poisoned by someone else’s cooties? (Does anybody really think a piece of tissue paper in the shape of a toilet seat is going to protect you from whatever gleep is waiting to crawl up your butt and kill you?) And hey …if we’re all that worried about germ-free cleanliness in the bathroom, I think the doors should be programmed to automatically go into lock-down whenever some lazy fool can’t remember to flush his or her excrement. I'm too often amazed-- and horrified – by the number of people roaming our streets who think it’s okay to leave their dumps sitting on display for the next unhappy victim. But… maybe the problem is that there’s too much technology in today's toilets, and it's distracting people from taking proper care of their number ones and twos. I mean, with this thing popping up in men’s bathrooms these days, it’s a wonder guys even remember to wipe anymore:
2) Robot vacuums. I bought one of these things and yes, they do work. In theory, they’re great … while you go about your busy life, you can program the thing to just glide around the house cleaning crud off your carpet. When it’s done, it docks itself at its base and you come home, look around, and think, “Wow, it’s all clean! It’s like MAGIC!” But here’s the problem…I have cats. And, like dogs, ferrets, gerbils, alcoholics or any other life form we’re inclined to keep as pets, animals have a knack of bringing chaos into an otherwise danger-free zone. Stupidly, I thought this little bot* would be an entertaining spectacle for my felines. Sadly, Miss Kitty – who is prone to throwing up at the smallest provocation – decided to test its fortitude by launching her dinner all over the six inches of carpet the thing was about to clean. (I will spare you the more graphic details, lest you launch your dinner and consequently blame me for it.) So, I quickly learned that I can’t let this thing run unsupervised unless I lock up the cats first.** But, to leave the cats out, I have to be home…and it’s kinda hard to relax in my bed or in my easy chair while this noisy little machine is growling around on the floor.
Furthermore, the entire time it’s working, I’m not enjoying my life-that-is-so-busy-I-can’t-be-bothered-to-vacuum-the-floor. I’m sitting there like a lump thinking, “Dear God, I can’t believe I’m THIS lazy.” And it’s not like this robot doesn’t ever need human assistance; once it stopped cold because its battery pooped out. Another time it stopped cold because it had gotten icky stuff tangled around its roller and needed an emergency crud-ectomy from Dr. Meskunas.*** So, while it’s a nice toy, I wish I had thought it through a bit more.
3) The scrambled letters in the box I have to type every time I want to buy something off a website. Actually, let me expand this to include every annoying thing I have to go through when it comes to Internet shopping. Now … I love Internet shopping, I do. I don’t think I’ve walked into a physical mall in more than two years. **** But if it’s a website I’ve not been to before, I have to register, come up with a log-in name, come up with yet another password I’ll forget in five minutes, and then be bombarded by emailed ads from these people, daily, until I die. Then, when I can’t remember the password I so thoughtlessly created…or if I dare to use a different computer entirely… the web site bombards me with “hint” questions like, “Who was your best friend in high school?” And naturally, because I AM a flake, I can’t remember the answer I originally put in there. Was it Judy? Kim? Chocolate? Barry Manilow?
So, in the time it would have taken me to drive to the stinking mall, I finally figure out how to get past the website’s security system that was apparently put in place to protect me from myself. But if I am lucky to actually be able to BUY something, I then have to deal with that fuzzy box with the five or six figures that are supposed to resemble actual letters and numbers. You know the one … where you have to retype those exact letters/numbers so the computer knows you’re a real person. In my case, all it shows the computer is that I’m a really impaired person, because inevitably I'll see a blurry “4MV3Ick9” floating upwards into the heavens—which I then type as “4NlV31dc9”—and then the screen pops up with yet another box of crap that looks like something a stoned kidnapper wrote in a ransom note. I keep trying to type it back until I eventually make a lucky guess ...or give up entirely and turn off the computer.*****
4) The monitoring device I let Allstate talk me into. Okay, so here’s the deal … I asked my agent how I could save money on my car insurance, and he suggested that I plug this “Drive Wise” device into the car (under the dash) so the device could spy on how well I drive and transmit the data back to Allstate. The theory behind this is it will prompt me to drive more carefully, knowing I’m being monitored, which will make me less of a risk and less likely to be in an accident and have to file a claim. So, I figured what the heck, why not give it a try – I have nothing to hide, right?****** So, after having this gizmo installed for a few weeks, I got an email from Allstate telling me my first “driving performance results” were ready to be viewed. I logged onto the website, pulled up the results, and was shocked to see that I had been letter-graded in different categories. What the heck? Worse, it gave me an overall grade of “B-“! Sorry, but that was unacceptable in high school and, out here in middle-aged real life, it’s just as distasteful. It turns out this snotty little professor gave me an A+ in “braking” and an A+ in “speed” *******, but gave me a C- in “time of day” and “traffic congestion”. Excuse me? How is any of that within my realm of control? Does Allstate expect me to call my boss and demand that I be permitted to work the night shift so I can avoid rush hour? Or maybe I should move to Frozen Lemming, Alaska********, so as to avoid other humans driving cars? I'm reading this report card and enduring unsettling flashbacks to what I hated most about childhood: constantly being judged. I really resent knowing technology … which was always meant to serve man … is now not only judging us, but shaming us as well.
5) My cats’ plastic anti-gravity watering dish. I realize this isn’t fancy technology, but I just wanted to point out that if something is entirely made of plastic, no amount of technology or understanding of basic physics is going to alter plastic's basic nature: which is, of course, to crack, split, warp, fray or Just Not Fit Together Right. I finally found one that I could assemble properly and it seems to be working, but it's too bad I had to spill a gallon of water all over the floor first.*********
So, in conclusion, I just want to say this … a little technology is good. But our society has become technology-obese. There’s a device for everything that happens in the real world and an app for everything that happens in the virtual world. Must we have a crutch for everything ? **********
*I think the real reason I bought it is because it cutely resembles the Jupiter 2 from “Lost in Space.” I like to imagine there’s a tiny Major West steering the thing underneath my bed. ("Danger, Will Robinson! Dust balls ahead!")
**In which case, one of the rooms doesn’t get cleaned and c’mon, then, what’s the point if I have to vacuum anything myself? Half the effort is pulling the vacuum out of the closet, detangling the cords and plugging it in.
***I ended up pulling out a strange combination of cat hair, blouse threads, two blades of shiny yellow Easter grass, an earring and three pellets of cat food…all thanks to the cats, of course.
****Dear God, I can’t believe I’m THIS lazy.
*****In which time, of course, I could have finished my shopping at the mall and had an orange Julius in the food court.
******Whenever you stupidly think this … about ANYTHING … you have plenty to hide, but you’re just too senile to remember it all.
*******Big whoopity do … I drive a 2006 Chevy with 130,000 miles on it … it wouldn’t go faster than 80 even if I had flames coming out the rear like Adam West’s batmobile.
********Not a real place. I made it up. And it’s too bad I have to footnote something like this so I don’t piss off Alaska, but Sarah Palin might still be lurking around up there and that is one scary lady.
*********And no stinking robot is going to help clean THAT up.
**********And, of course, I type these words as I'm using the spell check feature to review my blog entry. Hypocrisy is such a sad thing.