According to the Silicon Valley's Mercury News, the average number of gadgets in every US household has climbed from 1.3 in 1975 to a whopping 24 in 2008, a number that has remained steady to this day. Have we maxed out on our device devotion? Perhaps so.
The author reasons that we expect our gadgets to do more so why would we need more if a cell phone can do today what a PC, cordless phone, tape recorder, video console and camera used to do yesterday? The truth is if you combine the number of functionalities our contemporary devices have compared to just five years ago, you would be astounded by all that they can do. Even in a time abundant state, you wouldn't have enough time in a day to try them all out.
Gadgets can indeed save us a lot of time. I whipped through the Grammy Awards in two and one-half hours thanks to fast-forwarding capability of my new television (admittedly, I had never taped a TV show in my life so it was a new experience. I felt rather racy zipping through the commercials at the speed of light). But then we start to believe everything should go at that speed. We become accustomed to the pace, as if it's normal to whip through things instead of enjoying them.
If you don't think you're hooked on gadgets, think again. They are unavoidable. Even if you're the least techie person you know, you are as dependent on technology as the next person. It's everywhere. Like the air you breathe.
The story of my car battery is a lesson in how paralyzed we can be when our gadgets no longer work.
The other day life got off to a whirring start. That is, to the whirring of a dead car battery whose juice had been sucked dry by a deadbeat radio that, go figure, still had enough gumption to bring down the car's central operating system simply because it could.
I was not amused.
So instead of taking the sporty, two-seater, I-am-free-to-zip-to-the-TV-studio-mobile, I was obliged to wait for the tow truck to plow through a zillion snowflakes to my rescue. Watching my husband tear off into the blizzard in our blue Mazda, I dialed up the emergency assistance number to see what could be done.
Admittedly, I was in the dry, warm comfort of my very own home. It could have been worse, like waiting on the side of the Autobahn, risking life and limb to get to where I needed to be.
The tow truck guy came forty-five minutes later, sporting a heavy-duty battery smaller than a briefcase.
"This'll do the trick," he winked. While the car revved up to an acceptable level, we did some paperwork in his truck. He took a call, chat up a storm and finally released me to drive myself to the repair shop. It felt like an eternity, knowing I had to be at the TV studio by 1 pm. Remembering to breathe the slow, I hopped into the flow of the moment, riptide and all.
"Glad the battery charged up again because there's no way I can make it down your driveway and back again," he winked again.
I plowed my way through the snow drift that was the common driveway. Peeling a wheelie around the corner, I zig-zagged my way to the nearby town to deinstall the rogue radio. Or, at least, I thought.
Another thirty minutes went by before the repair guy could say, "All done!" he winked too.
I could feel the skin just above my eye begin to twitch.
"Oh, I unplugged the radio, then plugged it in again. You'll get a new one by Friday. It's a common manufacturer's error with this car model. Only they don't replace it until you have a problem."
So Renault (there, I said the name) leaves it up to fate as to whether you come unplugged in the middle of, well, anywhere?
For a second time that morning, I was not amused.
Our cars are computer-operated. Our lives are dictated by them too. What do you do when your computer is suddenly out of commission? Another unplugged moment this week was a wake-up call to our device dependence.
My Internet was winking (do you see a theme here?) on and off until it finally disengaged altogether. So I patiently called the phone company to get to the bottom of the matter. Much like the tow truck guy, the dude on the phone was extremely helpful and chatty.
"Is it plugged in?" he asked flatly.
I'm sure he could hear my eyes rolling. As I could be that..."Oh..." The cord had jiggled loose from the router during a particularly vigorous vacuuming session, I suppose. It's hard to nudge all those cables out of the way to clear the dust, don't you know?
I quietly pushed the plug back into its place, thanked the phone guy and watched my computer blink back to life. I would lie if I told you a two-ton boulder didn't tumble from my chest.
The next time you want to throw your laptop/cell phone/tow truck guy out the window, remember this: It is amazing how much we rely on automation and when it doesn't work, we think our lives just might end. Only they won't. It's after days like these that we could all use some truly unplugged time!