Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tangling with Technology

Grab this related post Widget!
Ecuador isn't much of a high tech country. Sure, we've got WiFi and ATM's, but a lot of things you take for granted in the U.S. simply do not exist in my world. And since I'm not exactly a high tech kind of guy, I often feel like Crocodile Dundee in the most common situations when I return here.

It starts in the airport where after a long flight I head straight to the restroom. God forbid #2 is required, when an accidental movement can turn the toilet into a bidet or I find myself wildly gesticulating to activate a motion sensor that's playing hard to get.

Washing my hands afterwards is a supposedly mundane activity that reduces me to looking like one of the kids in Grease "Doin' That Crazy Hand Jive" to get the water flowing and the paper towels expending. My hands are waving everywhere. In front of? Under? How high? How low? Who in the hell decided all this no-touch stuff was a great idea? The whole concept of motion sensing makes no sense to me.

Of course I could opt for one of those Xlerator hand dryers. Never have a problem getting one of those bad boys to turn on. What a macho product. I remember the first time I experienced this ridiculously powerful apparatus. It was after a movie when we lived in Vegas and of course everyone had to pee afterwards--those mega-sized $6.00 soft drinks show no mercy. So maybe six of these beasts were roaring simultaneously and it was like standing on the tarmac behind a jumbo jetliner. These contraptions blow air so violently there should be a warning label about traumatizing small children. Or unexpecting adults---.

But I digress. I buy a few things at the grocery store and swipe my card to make the purchase. Believe it or not even this Flintstones transaction has not made it to Ecuador, which helps give you my perspective on this whole post.

The card doesn't work. Sigh-----. I convey this to the checkout girl and she asks, "Do you have a chip?" I comment that I'm trying to buy some chips but other than that I don't what she's talking about.

"On your card."

"I have no idea." I show her my card. "Do I?"

"Yes, it's right there."

Long silence-----------. "OK, now what do I do?"

"You insert it on the bottom."

"There's a place to insert the card on the bottom?? When did this happen? Why did this happen??"

I think that's the end of it, but the machine has questions of its own for me. "Is ______ the correct amount?" Huh? I hope so. Was I supposed to be following along with a calculator? "Do you want cash back?" Cash back? In Ecuador the clerks actually ask if you have the exact change to give them. I'm just trying to make a simple purchase and this is turning into an interrogation!

I took my daughter to the oncology center for one of her chemotherapy infusions and didn't fare too well even there. The floor she visits has a refreshment room with a refrigerator, water dispenser, coffee maker, and ice machine. After careful reading of the instructions I actually produced a cup of coffee. I know that sounds lame but I was quite proud of myself.

My interaction with the ice machine wasn't as successful. I lined up my drink cup under the spout and pressed the bar above it. Ice comes out. Great. I take my hand off the bar. Ice comes out. And comes out. And comes out. I panic and don't know what to do except yank my cup away.

The ice stops coming out. Seems the machine is activated by--you guessed it--a motion sensor, my new arch nemesis.

So later I'm with my daughter at her station where she's receiving the infusion. This place is set up with recliners like hers all around the perimeter of a large room with everyone facing the center. Which is kind of a shame because through the big window right behind us is a lovely view of the Manhattan skyline.

Given the nature of what's going on here you shouldn't be surprised to learn that the atmosphere is, shall we say, subdued. Most patients and companions say nothing and those that do generally speak quietly like in a library. Adrian and I accumulate some trash with drinks and snacks that I dispose of in a large receptacle in the middle of the room. I step on the pedal and the lid of course rises. I take my foot off the pedal and figure the lid will gently descend.

I figure wrong. It drops like a stone with and goes WHAM!! A grumpy guy says, "Hey, buddy, can you hold it down?" I meekly mouth, "I'm sorry-----."

I don't even want to get into my trials and tribulations buying train and subway tickets. So many screens. So many choices. So many opportunities to screw up, especially when you can just feel the frustrated energy of impatient regular riders behind you who are thinking, "Come on, you moron!"

Or trying to hold said tickets against the glass readers correctly to get through the turnstiles. One employee gave up explaining the proper technique and let me go through the handicap gate. That was a definite low point.

I truly love visiting the U.S. but I'm glad I live in a simple place where you pay cash for almost everything. Where you make coffee in a coffee pot and drink water from the tap, flush the toilet and turn on the faucet with a handle. Where you walk almost everywhere and take a 25 cent bus ride almost everywhere else. Where people don't seem to be in such a hurry to go nowhere special and do nothing important.

And I'm especially happy to be far, far away from every sort of motion sensor.

1 comment:

David L. Akins said...


We have been back in the U.S. two years now. I still haven't adjusted to the motion detectors, the "wind tunnel" hand dryers, or the interrogation when using my debit card.

David Akins