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Another Day in the Country

Friend or foe?

© Another Day in the Country

The other day, I realized that I often regard technology as a foe.

The digital world represents the unfamiliar, the unknown, the untrustworthy. Coming into knowledge of it halfway through my adult life, it will probably never be “natural.” It’s always a little alien, a little suspect, not easy to understand.

The other day I was standing in a long, unmoving line, attempting to buy some art supplies. The person in front of me moved out of the line and headed toward a different register. Then another person left the line-up, which left me as the next-in-line.

What was happening?

Still, I waited, watching the folks at the register. The cashier looked angry. Customers were obviously frustrated. Then, the cashier called for “Management.”

“Are you guys at a standstill?” I asked. “Will this take awhile?”

The cashier nodded and I, too, moved to another line. But that line wasn’t really moving either.

The customer who had been trying to complete a transaction walked over to me and said in a quiet, apologetic tone, “We were just trying to make a $3 purchase with cash, and it fouled up her cash register somehow.”

She rolled her eyes.

“So much for cash.”

I looked back toward the front of this, too, unmoving, line. A woman was having trouble paying with a credit card.

What was happening?

As I waited, I watched what happens in a store trying to sell a product when “the system” is compromised. Technology was the enemy, right now.

“Can you imagine what would happen if more than one store at a time had this occur?” I mused, wondering about this happening in a whole town, a complete state, or a country. Everything would come to a standstill!

What if this lasted for a whole day or week? Would we have to go back to the barter system?

Meanwhile, I’m still standing in line at the art supply shop. Right now, technology is not my friend, for sure!

It was at that moment of imagining, when I still had not moved up in the line, that I realized that I do not generally see technology as a friend. Having been raised without it, I see it as a foe to be conquered, something to be kept in check. I don’t really trust it.

On the other hand, children growing up in this digital world see it as a friend. They’ve only known this technological age. The toddler poking at a keyboard finds the changes on a computer screen amusing, long before they understand what’s happening. Mom’s smart phone is a playmate. A laptop is entertainment along with television and video games. It’s all friendly fun.

As they hunt and peck on a keyboard, they assume it will work, eventually, even if they don’t understand how it works. Technology is the buddy that gives Mom a break. Who wouldn’t love it? Who can do without it? It’s always been there, for them.

By contrast, I grew up listening to grown-ups talk, helping them with their chores and calling it fun, playing outdoors — all things that were available, naturally.

The telephone hung safely on the wall, out of reach. It was the latest new-fangled unexplainable thing. When I first used an electric typewriter, I was in college. I loved it.

And then came my first computer, a baffling instrument that I didn’t understand, and the technological roller coaster ride began.

Electrical impulses of the digital world fly through the air until suddenly they don’t; now what? I’m standing in line while the clerk attempts to key in my purchases manually. The machine can still add, but it can’t transmit.

As I wait, I remember the days when I tagged along after Grandma as she took eggs to Strickler’s Store for credit so that she could buy things her garden did not produce. Vern wrote a tally with a pencil on a pad. Even cash did not change hands.

It’s a another day in the country and so different than when I grew up. In most ways it’s better, more advanced, easier; but we’ve become too dependent on technology. What happens when it goes down, like a fair-weather friend, the web is broken, and all the transmissions stop?

Last modified April 6, 2017

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