Liz Soares: Technology runs our lives

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I arrived at the hotel’s registration desk and gave my name. The staff person couldn’t find it, and said they were having trouble with their computer system.

“I just got an e-mail yesterday saying you were looking forward to seeing me,” I said.

She was not amused. “The e-mail should have a reservation number on it.”

I awakened my phone and tapped onto my e-mail. Darn. My password had been changed recently and I hadn’t memorized my new one yet. I took out my wallet and extracted the slip of paper on which I’d written the password.

Finally, I was into e-mail. Then I had to scroll to locate the right one. Once I did, there was no reservation number to be found.

I retreated to a comfortable seat in the lobby so the staffer could take care of other guests. Calling my husband, Paul, at home, I asked him to look on my desk. “There should be something from the resort there,” I said, “Not too far down in the pile.” I make neat stacks on all my desks. It’s what I do.

He couldn’t find it. The line had thinned, so I went back to the registration desk. The first staff person directed me to her colleague and noted that the “system” was “back up.”

That was when I learned that my reservation was for the next two nights. As in, not tonight. Paul then called at that moment. He had found the paperwork and told me my reservation was for . . . the next two nights.

Now, I blame myself for this glitch, because I obviously hadn’t checked the reservation confirmation when it came through. The staff quickly and cheerfully found me another room and all ended well.

But I couldn’t help but be bemused about how technology runs our lives.

Look at me.  I’d come to a bucolic area in western Maine with my smartphone, iPad and MacBook Air. I had chargers for all of them, plus one for my Apple Watch. There also was a phone charger in my vehicle. That’s a lot of electronics. Plus, I’d just had to struggle with my e-mail password, and couldn’t get my accommodations resolved at first because the hotel “system” was “down.”

The first thing I did when I got to my room was plug in all my devices. Of course.

I marvel at this. I talked on rotary telephones as a child, watched black-and-white TV and learned to type on a manual machine. When I first started using personal computers in the 1980s, I wondered where my words went when I saved a document or hit send. The thought scared me.

But I quickly grew to love technology. Writing on a computer was liberating. I could type at the speed of my thoughts. I could write the words I was hearing in my head and easily go back and change them if I wanted.

Here I am in 2019, as attached to my smartphone as any teenager. I was attending a librarians’ conference, so the topic of technology was prevalent. As I write this, I realize that may come as a surprise to those who think libraries are quaint, outdated places. The fact is, we librarians don’t just use technology extensively in our work, we are actively involved in all kinds of issues relating to it, such as privacy and net neutrality.

Anyway, a conversation came up at the conference breakfast table about our attachment to our phones. I had to admit that I like the fact that phone messages appear on my watch. I can quickly ascertain whether they need immediate attention or not.

Wow. That really made me sound like a geek.

Sometimes I also get news alerts. On my watch. I apparently signed up for this at some point, but I’m not sure why I thought it was a good idea. When there is breaking news (and there’s been plenty in recent weeks), my watch will ping several times, as different outlets weigh in. It gives me the illusion that the world is ending. That is not good for my mental health.

Back at the hotel, I left my devices behind and went for a swim. Perhaps the pool is the only place where I don’t feel the need to have my phone nearby. It even rests on my nightstand as I sleep, ready to wake me in the morning. I guess it is a kind of security blanket.

I swam happily. As I approached the door to my room, I heard music playing inside. I hesitated. Was a stranger in there? Did I have the wrong room?

Then I recognized the song. It was Bob Dylan singing “If Not for You.” It’s an alarm to remind me to give my dog, Aquinnah, his medication at suppertime, even though I was 90 minutes away.

Aw. Technology was connecting me to home. My love/hate relationship with it continues.

 

Liz Soares welcomes e-mail at [email protected].



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