Opinion

Along the Fraser: New-fangled smartphones awesome

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“The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!” Steve Martin, The Jerk.

The new and mysterious makes a child squeal in delight – first steps without help, a multi-coloured butterfly. “Yesterday a child came out to wonder …” sings Joni Mitchell.

But, gas station attendant, Nathan R. Johnson, is a grown man. His excitement over his name appearing on page 73 is comical. “Oh my god, Millions of people will read this!”

“Sha-zam,” Gomer Pyle (Andy Griffith Show) would echo. Pyle was another adult awestruck by simple things. When he exclaimed, “surrr-prise!” at mundane events, child-like wonder brightened our lives.

A sha-zam moment came when I got a new cellphone.  Friends laughed at me for keeping the old one, with the big numbers, for so long. “I use it to phone people,” I protested.

“An antique,” they insisted. “New ones let you download podcasts, listen to music, make movies, upload them to YouTube. It’s endless. Smartphones think for you!”

I like to think for myself. But, the needle on my turntable scratches my Frank Sinatra records, the photo store won’t develop film much longer, and the ‘t’ on my typewriter sticks. It was time to enter the wireless world.

I’d begun with an Apple laptop.  An iPhone made sense. “G-o-l-l-y,” I squealed when it lit up like a UFO. Before long, I was playing crib with someone in Jamaica!

Music was next. Reluctantly, I gave up a credit card number – something I’d never done – for a Stan Rogers album, donned headphones, and belted out Fogerty’s Cove with Stan knowing nobody could hear us above my old electric mower.

Garrr-sh! Before long, I was making a movie – about pee jugs. Truckers throw them into ditches because governments won’t fund garbage cans. My phone sent photos to a Cloud and on to my laptop. Don’t ask me how. The cloud could be Gulliver’s floating island of Lilliput for all I know.

The movie’s coming along. I’ve written a script, added music – trickling water –  and animation – fish darting past jugs bobbing on a stream.  A voiceover sounds like Orson Wells in the War of Worlds.

New phones have GPS. Wow! I was driving my wife, Janis and her mom to a hotel in Richmond, an overnight stop before flying to California. The Google map wasn’t helpful with construction around Number 3 Road. We got lost.

“Let’s call the hotel,” suggested Janis.

“There’s a program on my phone called, Ask Siri,” I said, pulling to the curb. “Siri, what is my current location?” A dot showed it on a map. “You are at …” said a young woman’s pleasant voice.

“Directions to the Weston Wall Centre Hotel,” I said.

“In 50 metres, turn left,” began Siri.  Soon, we were there.

“Can you find your way back to Maple Ridge?” asked mom.

“I’ll ask my phone,” I answered.

Siri got me on to Hwy. 99 south. I knew the way from there, Hwy. 10 to 176th Street, to the Golden Ears Bridge. My phone had other ideas. “In two kilometres, turn left on to Hwy. 17,” Siri directed. This was the new South Perimeter Road along the Fraser River to the Golden Ears Bridge, unknown to me at the time. The boomer’s mistrust of technology returned.

“The machine’s wrong,” I told myself.

“In one kilometre, turn left,” it repeated.

“Proceed to route.”

It’s hard for boomers to relinquish control. I balked briefly, then obeyed a child-like curiousity. Did my phone know something I didn’t? Soon, I was on Golden Ears Way.

I love – no, like my new smartphone, but it’s not infallible. Directions to a hall in Silverdale a week later were wrong.

Siri insisted – although nicely – “proceed to route” when I ignored her advice to turn left instead of right. I knew this area well. Boomers make up their own minds. We might embrace the wireless age, but we’ll turn our phones off when we disagree … and savour the silence.

 

 

 

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