Checkout lines depress me lately. Not only because a goodly share of today’s merchandise seems exorbitantly priced and fairly superficial, but because I’m hard pressed to remember the last time someone actually counted back my measly change—placing the bills and proper coinage into my ungrateful little hands in a piecemeal fashion. Which is sort of pathetic. It seems that clerks can punch keys and bag wares with great fervor and efficiency (some with the suggestion of a smile even), but when it comes to making change in the aforementioned manner (which would imply both humanness and intellect), many are sorely lacking. Instead, they routinely shove a wad of cash in my direction, eager to inspire my swift departure, completely insensitive to my need for order and convention.
Perhaps I would do well to step outside myself, though—to view the matter from a cashier’s perspective. I mean, why bother learning the menial task when a machine can spit out the correct sum instantaneously? To make throwbacks like me happy. That’s why. I happen to like the notion of reliance on someone’s mind as opposed to someone’s software.
Call me crazy.
That said, I fear we’re creating a generation of individuals who can neither think nor do for themselves. Despite the best of intentions, technology appears to be making us both deplorably unimaginative and woefully dependent. Indeed, it seems odd that the best and brightest of our time—the independent thinkers who can be credited with some of the most awe-inspiring inventions designed to improve life—have enabled society to slide, perhaps unwittingly, into the abyss of perpetual neediness. How ironic.
Heaven forbid we attempt to function without our beloved gadgetry—the stuff we’ve allowed to seep into our pores like a drug, rendering us wholly incapable of resisting its allure. Our Smart Phones and Google TV. Our eReaders and Internet Tablets. Our iPods and iPads. Digital this and digital that. And let us not forget our dear TomToms and Garmins, the insanely addictive devices designed to guide us to the familiar and to the frighteningly obscure, because, of course, no one can read a fricking map anymore. Gone are the days of marking desired routes with a big, yellow highlighter and tallying mileage to derive ETA’s—which, oddly enough, always left me with a gratifying sense of accomplishment. That’s code for: I was able to adequately address the infamous “Are we there yet?” queries by handing my brood said marked-up map and suggesting they put their heads together and figure it out.
By the same token, it would appear that kids are no longer able to entertain themselves (given the techno-laden wish lists to which I’ve been privy, and the vast amount of time my heathens spend on PhotoBooth). In any event, the message being delivered to our impressionable youth via the media is slightly disturbing: BE VERY AFRAID OF BOREDOM. ELECTRONIC DEVICES PROMISE A NEVERENDING STREAM OF AMUSEMENT AND COMPANIONSHIP. Thank you very little, Nintendo, XBox and Wii. My children now think it’s uncool to play with Barbies, to climb trees and to devour books. What’s more, they’re fairly enraged because I won’t let them have cell phones. Gasp! So they crafted their own. Complete with penciled-on keypads and cameras. Oy.
Moreover, I’m troubled by this new age of texts and tweets—the one in which pithiness is not only embraced, but celebrated. I worry about future generations and their collective ability to compose thoughts—never mind complete sentences and properly spelled words. Quite frankly, the whole “short message system” makes a mockery of self-expression. It urges us to cut corners, to mutilate words, to discount grammar, to stop short of saying what needs to be said, TO THINK IN 160 CHARACTER BURSTS—which is wrong on so many levels I can’t begin to express my displeasure. Granted, I’m hopelessly addicted to both texts and tweets, however I have standards and an abiding allegiance to the written word. Translation: My tweets are long and rambling and my texts are veritable tomes that make the geeks at Verizon cringe.
Call me a rebel.
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Copyright 2010 Melinda L. Wentzel