f
Opinion: Column: Useless Is As Useless Doesn’t Have To Do
0
Votes

Opinion: Column: Useless Is As Useless Doesn’t Have To Do

It began years ago, when technology enabled many public bathrooms to change to hands-free. Other than the obvious hands-on responsibilities, many of the other elements no longer required any touching. Be it the paper-towel dispenser, the hand dryer, the hot and cold/on and off functions in the sinks, and of course, the urinal and toilet flushing functions. All providing a convenience never before possible. Other than an automatic entry/exit function for the bathroom door, and one as well on the inside for the stalls themselves, using many public bathrooms has become much less involved, shall we say, than ever before. And it has not stopped there. It has gone public in a very big way.

Driving, specifically through tolls, that is. Thanks to E-ZPass, tolls, or rather interacting with them by having to hand money over to a "toll collector," (or even to stop and toss money into a basket) has nearly been eliminated. Due to a device (transponder) attached to my license plate, as me and my car approach the toll booth, I simply go about my normal driving business with nary a worry in the world. I steer into the dedicated E-ZPass lane at a bit less than the posted speed, and ding!, as I drive through the toll booth, the toll is paid. No fuss, no muss, no window roll-down and no scrambling for change or digging for dollars. What's done is done so long as the yellow light illuminates and "paid" appears. (Although if what's done isn't done, you'll soon receive a paper bill in the mail at the address on file.)

Metro, our local public conveyor, also provides a hands-free or very nearly hands-free experience. If you have a plastic "Metro card" linked into their system, all you need do as you enter the turnstyle is tap your card and go. No more standing in line at the "Fare"/"Add Fare” kiosks to load your card with money to start or end your journey. As with your E-ZPass, once you sign up and link your Metro card to a credit/debit card, you are "In Like Flint," as some of us from a certain generation might say. Henceforth, your card is automatically updated to always provide sufficient dollars for this trip and any subsequent trips to make sense.

Now imagine if I had a "smart phone." How many more functions/people-free interactions might I enjoy with a tap, a scan or a wave? Unfortunately, I have what my wife, Dina calls a "stupid phone." That's a flip phone with no internet access. As such, I am cut off from an evolving world. A world in which I'll likely not have to interact with anybody or reach into my pocket for anything resembling money. All I'll have to reach for is my "smart phone." I've seen its functionality at the airport in lieu of a paper ticket, on Amtrak, at concert venues and of course sports venues. It seems to help speed up the entry process.

I don't really don't want to be the last flip-phone-holding man standing. But neither do I want to get into a life-accident while negotiating the learning curve. At the moment, the road ahead seems full of twists and turns with more curves than I can possibly imagine. How do I negotiate something I can't see? Moreover, how do I negotiate the road less traveled, by me? Where will I draw the experience necessary to acclimate to these ever-changing signposts? I mean, the words may be familiar, but some of the context may be off-putting and counterintuitive, to me.

I'm not a complete Bozo. I have partially integrated into this new world. I have had insurance and car payments automatically debited from my bank account for years. I have some over-the-counter medicines, supplements and a variety of cat-related care and feeding products automatically delivered to my home. However, sometimes I feel like a pinball (and I'm no wizard) without the bells and whistles, banging around trying to stay on top of what product is debited/paid and when. Now that's a service I could use: an automated weekly reminder of what's happening when. And the beauty of it, I wouldn't need any new devices. I use what I always use: my home computer. Turn it on, click the email, open, read and then close. Even Bozo the clown could do that.