By Joe Rector
The announcement just came over the intercom, “Teachers, the Internet is going to be disconnected. Don’t panic!” I laughed to myself and thought, “How ridiculous is that?” The smile on my face lasted only a brief time. Then, the feelings of discomfort creeped in until I, too, fretted over having no connections.
The other day I checked in for my six-month check-up for skin cancer. The office lost its Internet connections, and the “system was down.” Things slowed to a crawl, and the silence there was akin to that of a funeral home. Receptionists and bookkeepers lamented that they couldn’t do their jobs; the records that were available for my visit were half-printed, having ended with the shutdown. The nurse asked if I knew what I was there for, and I told her a check-up, but she had no idea what the typing on my chart indicated since it stopped halfway through.
When I think about such events, the fact that we’ve turned over too much of our lives to technology is apparent. Most of us walk around with a cell phone either tucked in our pockets are squeezed in our hands. Should cell service temporarily go out, the conniption fits and profanity-filled tirades begin. For some reason, we think that having no cell phone is a danger to life. As much as the folks in Houston might dislike it, most of them have discovered that they can survive without a cell phone. It wasn’t that long ago when owners of these wonders of technology were few and far between. Now, even elementary school students have them. What in the world is so important to a seven-year-old that he needs a phone? If illness occurs, the office has phone service available.
Because the Internet service is out at school, my students weren’t able to type final drafts of essays they were writing. I told them to use blue or black ink and to write them. One student commented, “We’re going old style!” So much work is pecked out on computers that some students have lost the ability to write in a manner that can be read. They don’t worry about grammatical mistakes because the “checker” warns them of grammatical and spelling errors. It’s as if they have turned over thinking to a machine.
Even our appliances at home run on what I call “high technology.” I don’t mind at all looking in the refrigerator to discover what items should be bought at the store. Having some screen come up on the door of the appliance where items can be listed and synced to my phone is overkill. No matter how many buttons I push, the dishwasher never runs, and to answer questions, yes, I push the start button. These days, if a sensor or “board” goes out on a washer or dryer, buying a new appliance is almost cheaper than buying the part. If the power goes out, nothing works, and when it returns, resetting clocks and cable boxes and timers can take an eternity.
Don’t get me wrong. I think technology is a good thing. Being able to type up a column, attach it to an email, and deliver it to the editor beats banging on an old typewriter and lickings stamps and envelopes. My complaint is that we humans have turned over too much of our lives to technological advances. Kids don’t play outside as much anymore; we have so many television channels but still can’t find anything to watch, and we receive contact from all sorts of people and organizations, even while we sleep. Just unplugging for a while would do all of us a favor. That being said, I’ll sit and wait for the Internet to come back so I can send this column in. Escape in futile.