The other day, while waiting for my car to be serviced, I was sitting in the customer lounge of our local dealership. Soon, I was joined by a 20 something lady. As she sat down, she placed a laptop computer on the seat beside her. She also had a cell phone clipped to her shirt and over the next half hour, worked studiously on some nature of hand held device.
It started me thinking of how many things we used to have to do manually that we depend on devices to do for us today. To a great degree, artificial memory has replaced our own. Simple math for instance has been replaced by digital readouts. And making change or adding sums have apparently become a lost art.
During a recent trip to return my empty beverage bottles for a refund, I was greeted by a young man at the return window. He advised that his scanner was down and he would have to add up my return manually. Since the value of each bottle was either five cents or fifteen cents, I did not see this as a challenge of any proportion, but I was wrong. He proceeded to shuffle the bottles, grouping them by glass and plastic, then re-grouping them by size. Each time he would count them and make some notes on a piece of paper, and each time he would come up with a different total. While waiting, I mentally tallied the bottles and told him how much I believed I was owed. He however, yet unwilling to accept defeat, called his supervisor for assistance, He explained his predicament, whereupon she produced her cell phone/calculator and proceeded to tap in the amounts until arriving at the number.
Not long ago, I made a purchase in a small shop which totaled six dollars and twenty seven cents. Not wanting a lot of change, I gave the clerk a ten dollar bill and the twenty seven cents. She quickly slid the change back and smilingly advised me I had given her too much money, waving the ten dollar bill. Not wishing to complicate her day any further, or mine for that matter, I silently slid the twenty seven cents back into my pocket.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against technology. I actually embrace it. I have an e-reader, a cell phone, a couple of computers, and a car that I can talk to, and I greatly enjoy all of them. I think it is wonderful that we are able to harness programs and processes that make our life easier and/or more productive. But I also wonder, in this environment where we no longer have to talk to each other directly, or just generally communicate at all without a digital assist, what will become of us if one day someone accidentally pulls our plug?