last column about gizmos and gadgets
seems to have struck a chord (or a
nerve?) with my fellow correspondent,
Cliff Leppke. He wrote me an interesting
email shortly after that column appeared
in the last issue, explaining why
some drivers actually enjoy this stuff.
I was glad to hear from him. It made
writing this column easier.
As I write this now, I am sitting
in a comfy canvas chair next to the
fire, at our campsite in northern
California. The weather for this trip
has been alternately hot enough to
fry your brain, damp enough to grow
mold on your feet, and cool enough
to freeze your...... well, you get
the idea. Make no mistake, we're having
fun, and a new-to-me laptop is helping.
My present place in the universe got
me to thinking about all the technology
that I didn't bring along with me.
After moving to a new campground yesterday,
Rob and I spent a good part of today
exploring. Our only guide was a well-used
California map (the paper kind), and
two sets of slightly middle-aged eyes.
That is, unless you count the dog,
who had eyes only for any rogue Holsteins
that happened to walk out in front
of us. It was fun to drive an unknown
road and not know exactly where we
might end up. I read the map (which
I am very good at, by the way) and
suggested turns onto roads that went
in the general direction of where
we wanted to be. I did get us 'lost'
twice, but it didn't make a bit of
difference: we still got back to our
campsite just fine. We ended up traveling
about 75 miles, in a giant circle,
and saw some new things and a few
old ones. Nobody had a nervous breakdown,
nobody died, and nobody lost anything
but a few minutes while I decided
which road to take. My point is, of
course, that we didn't need GPS or
any of the other fancy-schmancy junk
that comes installed in cars now.
Sometimes I feel so old-fashioned
and behind the times. It doesn't bother
me much though. I was just fine before
I knew that a 'Garman' was a brand
of GPS device and not a new designer
handbag. And I'll be fine now that
I can understand what someone means
when they say 'No, I don't need directions,
I'll just plug it into my Garman and
go'. It still unhinges me though that
kids would rather watch some pointless
Disney drivel on a TV screen (in the
car of course) than see the Grand
Canyon go by outside their very window.
Cliff argues that GPS is a handy and
convenient way to find out how to
get somewhere, or perhaps find a specific
business. I agree with him here. If
you're in the mood for tacos, it could
probably help you locate some very
easily. But isn't looking for a taco
place part of the fun? And, if you
don't find what you want, maybe you
will find something else you want,
or change your mind. Does it HAVE
to be tacos? The point at which Cliff
and I (and others) disagree is that
we are becoming such techno-junkies
that we are soon going to not be able
to use the original GPS system God
gave us: our brains! As a society
I see us relying so heavily on GPS
and other 'fact-finding' gizmos that
our brains will - indeed have, in
some of us ' stagnate and wither from
the lack of thought! It would actually
be kinda funny, that mental pic, if
it weren't so true.
One thing that really made me crazy
when I was a kid was my mom saying
something like 'When I was your age,
I didn't have a phone in my bedroom,
so I don't see why YOU need one.'
She'd tell about walking to school
3 miles through the snow, or learning
how to drive in my Grandpa's 1929
Model T Ford. This, of course, was
light years removed from me learning
to drive in Dad's VW truck. The fact
that my mom didn't have television
when she was growing up didn't mitigate
the fact that we wanted a COLOR TV.
Kids now have phones in their CARS!
There were literally only a handful
of us in high school who had a car
to drive (usually not their own),
much less a phone in it. I reached
my teen years in the Dark Ages of
the late 60's. There were no such
things as cell phones then. But now
the kids want MORE: cell phones, GPS,
iPads, laptops, television monitor
in the headrests for Pete's sake!
Where does it end? We must stop this
insanity! Just say NO! Like my mom
still loves to say: 'What did everyone
do before there WERE cell phones?'
I really don't have anything against
technology - in fact, I enjoy some
of it. This laptop is entertaining
and very convenient. But do I need
it? NO. Do I need a cell phone? NO.
Do I need GPS? NO, not me! I still
have a working brain and would rather
feel the sense of accomplishment it
gives me to find a location on my
own. I know part of the problem is
that I'm just really weird: I love
the journey way more (usually) than
the destination. The trip itself is
the fun part for me, and if you take
away all the mystery it's somehow
less enjoyable. Most of the fun on
a trip is finding things you didn't
know were there! I love exploring
and where is the thrill in that if
you always know exactly where you
Of course, techno-junkies will say
that I am resistant to change and
that might be true. But where is it
written that change is always good
or for the better? After all, I have
a great time driving three old Volkswagens
that are all more than 40 years old.
Two of my vintage VWs didn't even
have a gas gauge when I got them and
one still doesn't! Can you imagine
the shock and horror that would cause
now? God forbid you might have to
use your brain and figure out how
much gas you have left yourself! This
generation wouldn't be able to do
that and wouldn't even know where
to start. We already have cars that
can park themselves (no common sense
needed) and now we have vehicles coming
that can nearly drive themselves.
I got an email just yesterday about
a new Mercedes, and it operates with
a - get this - JOYSTICK. There is
no steering wheel. That means your
6-year-old can drive it, but if you're
older than 10 you probably won't be
able to handle it.
Rather than finding these new gadgets
intriguing and making me want to learn
about them, they just bore me. They
bore me because I'm not really learning
anything useful, see, I'm only learning
how to work that specific device so
that my brain can take more time off.
I don't need another 'application'!
I need food, and oxygen. I need sleep.
So, yes, I have a NAP for that...