I hate technology.
I mean, I use it, I rely on it, I earn my living with it… but I still hate it. Too much control over how things turn out. And you can’t hurt a machine when it screws up, because it has no feelings.
Wait, that’s wrong. Machines do have one emotion: Glee at completely mucking up your life. It’s easy to imagine the toaster giggling as it burns your toast. Or the computer as it fries your data.
I just did an hour-and-a-half recorded interview with another writer. This was a very important call, something I intended to have transcribed, put on CD, flagged in my marketing, the works. And we nailed the subject, too — the talk was going just great… until, around 45 minutes into it, I realized the cassette tape I was using had snarled up in the recorder.
At least twenty minutes of our chat now sounded like Godzilla snorting in his sleep.
This was not just a disaster… it was embarrassing. Because the other writer had laughed at me for being such a caveman in the first place. No one uses cassette recorders anymore, he said.
And he had Fed Exed me a fancy digital recording device. Wanted to drag me, kicking and screaming, into the twenty-first century.
Well, I didn’t have time to learn how to use the digital thingie before the call, so I relied on my trusty Panasonic VSC recorder. It had worked perfectly for a couple of years, faithfully recording calls with no problem at all.
Fortunately, the other writer had recorded the call, too. On his sleek digital unit. So we were saved. I admitted, right there on the call, that he was right — I had been punished for relying on caveman technology. And he had rescued everything by being more modern.
Wait, this gets good. We finish the call, and I’m rolling up my sleeves in preparation of ripping the Panasonic apart before tossing it in the dumpster… and the other writer calls back.
Guess what? His fancy ass digital recorder had only recorded his part of the conversation. He sounded like an insane man responding to voices in his head for 90 minutes.
So old-school technology failed us, and cutting-edge technology failed us.
You know what didn’t fail us? Pencil and paper. I jotted down lots of notes during the call. If we can’t still rescue this recording — and it’s looking grim — we can do it again. From my notes.
It still sucks. Reminds of a guy they found a couple of years ago up in the Sierras. His car had slid off the road, and though he wasn’t mortally hurt, he died anyway. Stuck in the wreck. Had a cell phone that couldn’t get a signal, a $40,000 car that wouldn’t move or let him go, a wallet full of credit cards and cash, a nice suit, designer glasses and one last gourmet meal in his gut.
And he died anyway. Starved to death, just as easily and rudely as his caveman ancestors sometimes had. At the mercy of nature.
Sometimes, when the TV, the cell phone, the radios and iPods and DVD players and amps and microwaves and heaters and computers are all turned off… and there’s not even a hum of electricity anywhere to distract me… I wonder what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into here.
Brave new world, indeed.
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