Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The limits of texting revealed

There is no doubt  I love technology.

But as addicted as I am where smartphones, the iPad, streaming audio and video, surround sound and computers are concerned, there is a limit to the usefulness of all this space-age tech.

And yet, the events I witnessed at the Subway in the Kitty Hawk/Walmart complex last week made me realize that perhaps this tech revolution has advanced even further than my liberal boundaries might allow.

Let me set the scene.

I am munching on a 6-inch tuna sub at a table directly adjacent to the front door of the restaurant.

Enter, stage left, a couple in their mid-thirties, a son about 13 years of age, and an older woman who could be a grandparent or an older sibling of one of the two people comprising the couple.

Upon entering the Subway the foursome gathers just past the threshold, forming a circle where "dad" is the obvious leader of the tribe.

Let me put a qualifier on "dad" by adding the word "peripatetic".

As the other four attempted to communicate their orders to dad, he circled about like a shark poised for the kill and shouted (literally) commands to his subjects.

As dad gained control, his master plan was revealed to anyone within hearing distance.

He and "mom" would go to the counter and order their food.

So far, so good.

But the child and the older woman were exiled to a table, about six feet away from the first stop in the Subway ordering process and commanded, by dad, to TEXT their orders to him via cell phone.

As mom and dad approached the first "stop" on the Subway ordering circuit, "dad" wielded his cell phone like sabre--held high and constantly consulted.

When it came time to commence the sandwich orders, mom and "dad" easily communicated their desires to the Subway employee.

Then it came time to consult the cell phone.

Dad was astounded. The older woman's text, for whatever reason, failed to make it to dad's cell phone.

In order to resolve this problem, dad resorted to an age-old technology which those well-versed in such matters call "yelling."

He yelled across the void to the poor woman and she yelled back her order. This required several exchanges as well as some comments denigrating her technological prowess.

The kid, born into the world of modern social communication had successfully transmitted his text order to dad.

But alas, apparently the child didn't know the Subway methodology.

Suddenly dad was once again yelling across the chasm...

"What kind of bread do you want?"
"What kind of cheese do you want?"
"You ordered cold cuts-do you want Italian or what?"

Eventually, all four sandwich orders were completed, sans technology.

Dad, who became quite exasperated by the text message failure even yelled across the establishment to his son, "I love you, but this is exactly what I wanted to avoid."

Little did "dad" suspect that his already disrupted orderly process was about to descend into Dante's "Inferno."

For, as most of us know, it is at the register in Subway where one must declare their allegiance to a "combo"; which includes chips and a drink, or some lesser combination of drinks, chips, sandwiches and desserts.

Now, once again yelling across an even greater chasm, the two texting subjects were forced to physically join the parental units at the register.

Chaos ensured to such an extent that dad actually swatted a bag of chips out of the hand of the older woman as the four tried to complete the orders.

Of course, when the process reached it's denouement, the quartet chose the table directly next to me so I could have a front row seat to the post-mortem game analysis.

While the other three began to devour their food, dad stared..and stared..and stared some more at the register receipt.

He announced to the assembled family unit that he was "sure" they had overpaid--perhaps by being charged extra for chips or a drink that should have been priced in a combo, or perhaps something else equally sinister.

I'm not sure of the mathematical knowledge required to reconcile a four-person Subway order, but dad made sure the rest of the family understood the fault fell squarely in their bailiwick.

"This is why I asked we text our orders so we coud avoid this!" he proclaimed.

By now, the rest of the family had plowed through most of their lunch, but dad kept staring at the receipt.

Finally, he expertly determined that they had paid for one bag of potato chips they did not possess.

 He sent the older woman to retrieve the chips despite her protestations that she didn't want any chips.

He again assured the family that he wasn't mad. He even forced an almost genuine laugh.

"But, this wouldn't have happened if you all had just texted your orders correctly to me. This is why I like to be organized. The money doesn't matter, but I know we overpaid."


While I thought I would enjoy reading that day's New York Times on my iPad the real world turned out to be much more interesting than the virtual news world.

And if his son ever turns out to be one of those kids who act out and becomes a national headline, we'll all know why.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Time travel confirmed

Being a sci-fi fan I have always been interested in the concept of time-travel and the possibility of a rift in the space-time continuum.

But like ghosts, ESP and alien space ships crashing in New Mexico, I've never believed time-travel was possible.

Enter my mostly tech-challenged spouse.

Suddenly, time is nothing but a concept and "real time" no longer exists at our abode.

It all started with the DVR from Direct TV.

My lovely wife hates tech. Her smart phone sports all of about seven "apps". Ditto for her iPad.

Once she arrives home, she never turns on a real computer and she doesn't want to know how they work.

She cannot access Pandora, Netflix or anything called "streaming" on our home theater system.

HD, Dolby, Surround Sound..they aren't discernable to her optic or auditory nerves.

But the DVR she mastered in about 30 minutes.

When I come home at night and the TV is already on, I enter a nether world of time distortion.

It might be February, but all of a sudden a tropical storm warning crawls across the bottom of the screen or a teaser for the 11 o'clock news informs me that we can expect 80 degree weather tomorrow and Romney might have sewn up the GOP presidential nomination.

Startled, my wife then informs me we're watching an episode of CSI Miami/NY/Vegas or NCIS/NCIS-LA or Criminal Minds or The Mentalist from a time before the real estate market crashed because "I'm not sure we saw this episode."

I never know if its 2013 or 2009 when our TV is on.

Then came Candy Crush Saga.

In this game, you get a maximum of five lives for "free" and when you exhaust them, one has to wait two or three hours to get five more lives so one can advance to the next levels.

But my nominally tech-challenged spouse figured out that if one advances the date on one's iPad in the "Settings" area, real time disappears and future-time travel exists.

She has now borrowed so many future Candy Crush lives her iPad thinks it's 2090 and her CNN newsfeed is reporting something called "First Contact" by a race of aliens with pointy ears.

Any day now, when I arrive home, I expect to find a black hole or horizontal, lightning-type rift in the sky above our house.

Until then, if I miss a deadline or seem confused about the current state of affairs it's because I don't know if its 2009 (the DVR), 2013 (old-fashioned "live" television) or something with a Star Date (Candy Crush Time).

All I can tell you is that based on Candy Crush Time, the Chicago Cubs still haven't won a Word Series as of 2107 and The Simpson's have yet to be cancelled.