Monday, April 23, 2007

There Was a Time...

…when people didn’t have air conditioning and they used fans or slept on fire escapes or out in the open air.

…when we didn’t have cell phones, and there wasn’t a need to call someone as soon as we left the house and got into the car. All of a sudden, everything’s an emergency. What did people do before cell phones made instant contact a way of life?

…when there was no such thing as speed dialing. You had to put your finger in the little holes on the phone or on the little buttons and, oh my God, actually dial the number.

…when we didn’t have call waiting, and you weren’t rudely put on hold so that the person you were talking to could find out who was calling, and sometimes never get back to you. Man, talk about feeling insignificant. It used to be called a busy signal which meant the intruding party had to hang up and call back.

…when we didn’t have computers, and writers wrote on, gasp, typewriters, or, even bigger gasp, by longhand.

…when we didn’t have e-mail and people sat down and wrote letters or made phone calls.

…when you had to go to the library and take out books on the subject you were researching instead of hitting the search button.

…when you had to look at a map to get to where you were going instead of depending on Map Quest (which, by the way, isn’t always right).

…when you had to walk around the block for exercise and actually got somewhere, instead of hopping on the treadmill and going nowhere.

…when you had to heat up your leftovers on the stovetop or in the oven and they came out hot, instead of nuking them in the microwave and having them turn cold two seconds after coming out.

…when you had to get up and change the channels, forcing you to get some exercise, instead of sitting there in couch potato mode working that remote with death-defying speed while your butt gets wider with each passing year.

Now, I’m not suggesting that I could do without any of the above modern marvels. I’m a slave to the treadmill, and I rationalize that all the exercise I’m getting makes it okay for me to change channels from the couch. Air conditioning is a must, especially here in South Florida and when you’re waking up every hour with night sweats. The microwave is my best friend when I heat up frozen dinners. I got a cell phone to lower my phone bills (you gotta love those roll-over minutes). E-mail is a big part of my day job and comes in handy when I don’t want to speak with the co-workers I can’t stand. I frequent the library much less often these days since anything and everything I could possibly want to know, and even some things I never wanted to know, can be found on the Internet. Despite my disappointment in Map Quest which, instead of the directions pointing me west, sent me so far east that I literally hit the ocean, I’ll probably use it again. And my computer, well, I wouldn’t be posting this blog here now without it, would I? But I refuse, absolutely refuse, to get call waiting. I’ve got my limits.

I’m all for making life easier through technology, but I think we sacrifice something for all this speed, like peace of mind, serenity and a slower pace of life. Along with the technology comes increased stress levels and tons of frustration, like when the computer eats up all your files, e-mail is down, cell calls are dropped even though Cingular promises fewer dropped calls (yeah, right), a lightning strike here in the lightning capital of the world shorts out your air conditioner, you hit the up arrow on the treadmill instead of the down arrow and find yourself traveling at the speed of light, the TV, VCR and/or DVD remote stops working despite the addition of new batteries, and all that microwaved food you’re eating makes you wonder if your insides are glowing.

With these technologies come words with new meanings. Download, for example. I do it, but I hate it, always fearing I’ll do it wrong. Hard drive. It used to mean driving over potholes. Now, I don’t know exactly what this is, but I’ve had several of them. Worms. Sounds like something I would bring my dog to the vet for, but yuk, they’re in my computer. Browser. Isn’t this someone who just looks without buying? Server. Isn’t this the person who brings my food in a restaurant? RAM. Isn’t that the culprit who got the ewe pregnant? Byte. Something you used to take out of a doughnut. Now, with different spelling to dress it up, who knows?

Recently, I stopped watching the nightly news for one week, and lo and behold, my stress levels went down. I felt calmer, more peaceful. I don’t shut myself out of the world. I’m well aware of all that’s going on locally, nationally and internationally, but there’s a difference between being informed and being pummeled with it night after night. That’s how I feel about all this technology overload. I could live without some of these things, but could I “do” without them? Probably not.

What about you? Is there anything that you could do without that you feel would make your life simpler and better? (No, I’m not talking about your significant others. We’ll save that subject for another day.)


Sierra Donovan said...

Nancy, I've often felt this way -- we become so dependent on our conveniences that we can be helpless without them! Speed dial can keep us from learning our most important phone numbers by heart. When our TV broke down for over a week, my family found a lot of extra time in the evening that wasn't always easy to fill. And I get REALLY antsy if my Internet is down. Scary!

Laura Drewry said...

I found myself laughing out loud at your post, Nancy! My DH insists we have call waiting, but I have no idea why. He doesn't answer the phone at home (he's on it all day at work) and I refuse to put someone on hold to take another call, mainly because I hate it when people do that to me. So what's the point in having it? I've always been one of those people who believes the phone is there for my convenience, and if I choose not to answer it, that's my perogative. Isn't that why we have all those other conveniences, like voice mail and answering machines? If it's important, leave a message. If it's REALLY important, call my cell. But if you call my cell and it's NOT REALLY important, brace yourself for trouble.

gailbarrett said...

Nancy - Great topic! I've never been much of a tv watcher, so I wouldn't miss it if it were gone. On the other hand, losing my computer would probably kill me now. The other day I had a mini-disaster -- I knocked the speakers off my desk, they fell on all the cords, power strip, etc., and the compter went down. I couldn't get it going again for about a half hour and was in a total panic. I only use my cell phone occasionally, but it gives me some security knowing I can use it in case of an emergency. But we used to spend summers without television or phones when I was a kid (at a lake in Michigan), so maybe I'm used to that.