Are we driving ourselves crazy? Americans I mean. On the other hand, are we in control?
The experience of upgrading to an Android cell phone has seeded these questions, which are much larger than the original one I had to ask myself: “Are you willing to learn something new?” What I discovered is that things are a lot more complicated than I thought, but let me review.
My last blog ended with the commitment to try to master this new technology. The evening after learning how to turn it on, I sat down to work. I soon realized that I don’t like the feel of this device. It’s thin and hard, the surface is slippery, quickly marred by smears and fingerprints. I’ll have to carry Windex and paper towels. I’m particular about that kind of thing.
I kept swiping and pressing, repeatedly retreating to the safety of the home screen before discovering this app called “Help.” There I accessed a video with the light little voice of a teenage girl rolling through functions and images so fast I couldn’t take notes. Of course I couldn’t follow along with the device because it was in use. I am sorry to say that I do not have a photographic memory, and suddenly this seemed tragic.
Eventually after what seemed like hours of struggle and beginning to fear that I might be losing vision in my right eye, I turned the Android off. The last thing it does is vibrate for a second, kind of like a rattlesnake.
I sat there for a while with my head in my hands. “You are a crone,” I reminded myself gently. “This may be a bridge too far.” Then I remembered that saying “Crones don’t cry” or something like that and pulled myself together.
I went to bed hoping for clarity. Perhaps it was time to turn to a contemplative life. Sell my home and all my things. Get a little cell in a spiritual retreat up in Abiquiu in Georgia O’Keeffe country. Read, write, take long walks in nature. It could be good.
Nevertheless, I awakened to new resolve and hit the device again, unfortunately to no gratifying effect. That evening I packed up the Android and headed off to the Verizon store, determined to exchange it for something simpler. As I approached the door, I encountered the friendly manager, Adrianna, who was leaving for the evening.
I told Adrianna that this device was driving me crazy, and she assured me that this was not uncommon. Many people went through this, she said. They could help me. I could come in as many times as I wanted, and they would train me. Not to worry; it had taken her two years to learn how to use it. Two years! My stare elicited a smile like a hug and she went on her way.
An attractive young man I hadn’t seen before was busy at the counter with someone else, so I studied the displays. At the very end of the array like an afterthought were two of the traditional cell phone types with keyboards. They looked like old friends, familiar, welcoming, and uncomplicated. My resolve deepened, and soon the store was empty except for me and the young man.
When I arrived at the counter, I said, “I can’t work with this Android, and I want to trade it in. I know you’re going to think this is strange, but I can live with that.”
He smiled in amusement, probably having heard about my earlier visit to learn how to turn it on, and he repeated what Adrianna had said. It had taken him two years to learn all its features. I could too.
“I may be dead by then,” I countered.
Very graciously he proceeded to go about the business of an exchange, but it was the end of the day and the Internet was down again. There was no way to work it out. I leaned on the counter, head down. “I can’t believe this,” I said.
The young man continued to respond humorously, maybe because old people like me are fun to watch, but he promised to help me the next day. He seemed to have hopes, though, and put a friendly little post-it note on my Android box: “Play with me !!!” it said.
However, the first thing on my agenda the next morning was to communicate with friends at the high school reunion. I opened the manila folder where I had kept all that information, and lo and behold, there in the bottom was the cell phone I thought I had lost. I was overjoyed and burst into wild laughter. I could cancel everything and go back to life as I had known it.
Even as I sat there, though, insights acquired over the previous five days as well as related information that had been flowing in for some time began to connect like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Within minutes, my perspective on this whole issue had resolved in a new way. I have learned to trust that things happen for a reason and accepted that there was a whole lot more to this drama than I had realized–and at the very least material for another blog post.
My thought of the moment is that something is amiss in the world of phone technology if the well-being of community is important, and I think it is. As a result of my own experience, I am pretty sure that a large and growing population is evacuating the leading edge of change and is probably unaware of the consequences. And the really odd thing is that the agents of change may also be unaware of the consequences.
I’ll stop there for the moment. This is complicated, and I need to do a little research before going on.