Wide-Eyed and Technifried

As a parent of four children, seclusion is a rare and welcome thing, typically discovered only by positioning my rather ample derriere upon the porcelain throne in my master bathroom. Thankfully, there are some lines even my kids won’t cross. The activity was once rather predictable and mundane: secure appropriate reading material, enter the water closet, lock the door, and assume the position.

Alas, even the sanctity of the morning (or evening) ritual is no longer. Recently, upon an adjournment of the aforesaid “activity”, I exited the water closet to the ringing of our house telephone. Unfortunately, by the time I had washed my hands and buckled, snapped, and zipped the appropriate closures to avoid an embarrassment, the caller was gone. Caller ID notified me that it had been my father on the line. I dialed the number to his cellular phone and was promptly informed that my dad had tried every one of my contact numbers—work, cell, pager, etc.—and had not been able to reach me. When I let him know that I had been in the midst of an important “delivery”, he inquired, “Well why didn’t you bring your phone with you?”

Why didn’t I what?

I love technology. I’m not any sort of techno-geek necessarily, but I know my way around a computer, I know how to get news updates on my cell phone, and my televisions work following the dreaded D-Day of digital television. (From the tone of some of those public service announcements regarding the “digital transition”, I was fearful that we might have to wear goat skins and mark our door with lamb’s blood to avoid having our TV’s vaporize in the middle of the night if we were not “digital ready” on the day of transition.) But I’m beginning to wonder if we might be evolving into a society too dependent on the modern.

I can’t think of a five-minute period in any given day when I am out of the earshot of something that beeps, tweets, rings, or vibrates all in the name of making my life easier or better. I once could remember just about all the phone numbers of the people with whom I converse on a regular basis. Now I cannot recall their names (much less their numbers) if I don’t have my little smart phone with me. A contraption known as a GPS receiver is stuck to the windshield of my car out of fear that I will not be able to find my way home from the grocery store at the entrance of our neighborhood. The dusty encyclopedia—a fixture in the homes of my youth—is a dinosaur today; a mysterious parallel dimension known as the internet has every bit of information we could hope to find, and so much more. Just point and click.

What is really scary is how all this stuff is affecting us mentally. Twenty or fifteen or even ten years ago, if you called your aunt in Paducah and she didn’t answer, the thought would probably run through your mind, “Perhaps she’s feeding the chickens or visiting the facilities.” Now, if my wife doesn’t answer her cell phone after three rings, I speed dial the FBI. Children are developing social circles in virtual worlds as they play games with more blood than the first week of deer season in West Texas and more skin than spring break on Miami Beach. My business cards now have so many numbers, they’re printed on microfiche. We’re too connected, and there does not seem to be an easy way to turn the trend.

Incidentally, after the conversation with my dad, I did indeed start carrying my cell phone with me to the john. After all, what’s a quiet few moments on the toilet without the daily paper?


  1. That's why I enjoyed Montana so much. I couldn't get a signal on my cell phone. You had the name of the hotel and my room number. Information we used to share with one another in the "old days." If you needed to talk to me, you had to call the room. If we weren't in, you had to leave a message at the front desk. That is something our children may never understand!


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