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A Deputy Observer sent along the following tale of technology, an all-too-familiar song in this day and age, when tech that's supposed to be bringing us together and making our lives easier so often does the opposite:
I can tell Siri to remind me to take out the trash when I get home. It occurs to me that much more often I need Siri to remind me why I went into the living room, from the kitchen. It's dumbfounding that I can't remember an intention I had 30 seconds and 25 feet ago. I do not think iPhone's GPS is sensitive enough to distinguish my kitchen from my living room, so Siri won't be able to help. Maybe I'll write myself a note before I leave the kitchen, and hope I remember to glance at it when I arrive in a different room."
Having been born in that deep distant past when the Internet and cell phones and 900-flick Netflix was not a thing — way back when the only Facebook was the high school yearbook, in which the only posts were stuff like "See ya!" and "Have a crappy summer, dude!" — The Observer was already thinking a lot about technology even before our Deputy sent us a note about her love/hate relationship with Siri. Though The Observer goes into a frantic paw at our clothes now whenever we momentarily suspect we've left our cell phone somewhere, there was a day when we'd happily strike out for Phoenix, Bangor or Bumfukt, Egypt, with only an ID, $100 bucks and a couple of dimes to call home to mama if the going got rough. Ah, the salad days, when everybody in the world would periodically go out of radio contact and be perfectly happy to be there.
Not to get too old and farty on you, kids, but gather round and listen: The world was freer then. More adventurous. Friendlier. You told people you'd call when you got there and then you were incommunicado, like an astronaut rounding the dark side of the moon, until you got where you were going. You followed maps if they weren't too out of date, mastering the back-front-back-front fold so you could fit the gatdamn thing back in the glove box. You stopped and asked for directions. If your Packard or Hudson or Studebaker gave up the ghost next to some backcountry lane, sweet-smelling radiator steam curling picturesquely into the summer air, you simply walked to the nearest house, took off your hat, and knocked. "My heap quit on me, Daddy-o," you'd say. "Might I use yon jinglebox to call the cavalry?"
Nine times out of 10, unless it was some 12-year-old babysitter, sour Connecticut Yankee relocated to the warmer climes, or otherwise suspicious sort, they'd let you. You'd wipe your feet, and walk into their secret lair, full of knick-knacks and whatnots and tiny dogs named Diddibiteya? You'd thank them kindly for a drink of their iron-flavored well water and remark politely on the heat. Then you'd pick up the phone, use one of the phone numbers that you kept in your head instead of in some gadget (Yours Truly couldn't tell you his wife's phone number right now if you put a gun in our ribs) and you'd call the cavalry. You'd make a memory. Years later, you'd tell the story: This one time, my Nash quit on me way the hell out near Cotton Plant and I walked to this old falling-down house and used the phone of a guy who turned out to have been Harry Truman's White House masseuse back in the day. No foolin'. Had pictures of himself with ol' Give 'Em Hell all over his place. Nice old fella, once he put his shotgun away.
Now, though, our memories are filed and sorted and stored on a chip. Now, we've got all this technology to bring us closer and help us communicate. Ain't it lovely? Ain't it grand?
Speaking of travel, The Observer was traveling over the weekend. Sunday morning, standing under a hotel showerhead with all the force of a half-full watering can sprinkling delicate petunias, The Observer found our calling in life and made a vow. From now on, whenever we travel, we're going to pack a Crescent wrench and a small screwdriver so we can secretly pull the flow restrictors out of hotel showerheads. It will be a service we do for the good and hygiene of all humanity, one showerhead at a time. Just try and stop us, Johnny Law.
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