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Story by Lois Grace

My 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 are?

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...


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