In the 1950s I was a boy growing up in the Chicago area in a wonderful neighborhood filled with kids who are still my friends today.
Our family telephone was solidly attached to the wall and owned by the telephone company. If it didn't work, the telephone company sent a man to fix it or replace it. All the phones we had in our home were black and rotary, which meant we actually had to wear out our fingers turning the dial.
The only buttons I ever pushed as a kid were my mother's.
Our phone number was OR3-7978. The OR stood for Orchard. In those days they used two letters to begin phone numbers because they thought people couldn't remember seven numbers.
I mention this because of something that happened this week when I called my bank.
Bank Person: "And just to help confirm your identity what is your phone number."
Me: "My phone number? Well it's . . . wait a minute, I know it. It's 762 . . . no, no that's not it. Can you hang on until I can ask my wife?"
The fact that I can remember my phone number from more than 60 years ago but can't remember the number I have today is not old age, although a lot of my other problems are. The problem is that today we all have cell phones and I never call my own cell phone. Why do I need to know my cell phone number if I never call it?
Sixty years ago when I wanted to talk to someone in our family I dialed our house phone, the only phone we had. Today when I want to speak with my wife or anyone else in the family I dial their cell phones, not mine.
And I don't actually dial it. I press their name on my cell phone and the phone calls them for me.
I not only don't know my number, I don't know my wife's number or anyone else's number because I don't have to know them. I never dial them.
Bank Person: "There's a place on your cell phone where you can look up your cell phone number."
Me: "But I'm talking to you on my cell phone. How can I look up the number and still stay connected to you."
Bank Person: "I have no idea. Maybe I should transfer you to tech support."
Me: "No, please don't do that! I don't understand tech-speak. Every time I talk to them I end up more confused than when I started."
Several IT people have quit after trying to help me.
In addition to cell phones we also communicate a lot by e-mail today. And I don't know anyone's e-mail. My computer, iPad and telephone bring up emails for my contacts automatically.
I also don’t know home addresses. They're all programmed in the GPS in my car and all I have to do is hit the name of the person or place I'm visiting and it tells me where to go.
Here's the truth. I am totally digitally dependent. I can't function without my digital equipment. Since it knows everything about my life that I need to know, I've forgotten all that information.
My cell phone tells me when I have appointments, it tells me what the weather is so I know what to wear, it tells me what time it is, and where to find the best gas prices. It's my calculator, my dictionary, my encyclopedia, and most important of all it automatically logs me onto Facebook because I can't remember my ID and password.
It also has a bunch of other apps I thought sounded really neat when I downloaded them but I haven't used them since.
When I have question I ask Siri who lives in my cell phone.
Me: "Am I hopelessly digitally dependent?"
Siri: "I can't say."
Me: "Can't say or won't say?"
Siri: "No comment."
Me: "Am I hopeless?"
Siri: I don't know how to respond to that."
Maybe I am too dependent on my cell phone. Maybe I should try to live without it. Maybe I should just try to learn and remember things myself. Do we really need all this technology?
I gave Siri one last question.
Me: "Where is the nearest ice cream place?"
Siri: "I found seven very close to you."
She also gave me the ratings, a list of the flavors and instructions on how to drive to them.
That settled it. Technology is a wonderful thing to be dependent on. And so is ice cream