Friday, October 4, 2013

Phone Home, If You Still Can

For those of you unwilling or unable to keep up with never-ending drama of the staff here at 'Just Blowing Smoke', one of the members of the senior staff was recently sidetracked by a bit of major surgery.  (OK, I admit it was me.  But at least I was smart enough to get sick before the Affordable Healthcare Act kicked in.) That in itself is of no consequence however, except for the terrifying insight that this hospital visit provided.

You see, during the registration process, I was asked to provide some vital statistics to hospital before they would take me within this inner sanctum of medicine and carve me up like a roast chicken.  Besides my insurance information, there were other vital statistics required for my induction.  

Now in spite of the fact that it occurred at some point during the Cretaceous Period, I was still able to remember my birth date.  Because it was illegally used during my college days as an identification number, I was likewise able to remember my Social Security number.  If asked, I could even have repeated my American Express number after having used it for years to travel and having had to repeat it to hotel check-in and and airline reservation clerks.  Without hesitation, I was likewise able to remember my current address, in spite of the fact that I have moved some seven times since the beginning of the millennium.  When it came to my phone number however, I was stopped cold.

Let's see.  Oh yeah, it's 330 ... no wait, that was when I lived Medina, OH.  No, it was 706 ... oops, that while in La Grange, GA.  Maybe 614 ... yeah actually that's from Columbus, OH, and I've used it a couple of times; but not recently and not in a while.  Well I lived in the 913 area code now, but somehow that didn't feel right.  You know what, I'll get back to them on that later.  

OK, next of kin and contact phone number.  No problem.  Sons Sean and Joe both live in the Columbus area and their phone numbers are ....  Well anyway, my daughter Laura's still out in Montclair, NJ and her phone is ...  Wait.  No worries.  After all, my mom and my sisters Kathy and Maureen are right here in town and ... Oh crap! 

Oh sure, I could walk across the lobby and ask them what their phone numbers are while they're sitting in the waiting room  (my Mom and sister Kathy brought me to the hospital), but that would mean admitting to them that I didn't know their numbers.  My God, asking directions from strangers while driving with a wife and a car full of kids would probably be easier and less embarrassing.  There has to be another way.

What the hell had happened to me anyway?  I used to know half a dozen hotel chain 800 numbers by heart and that of my four favorite airlines to boot.  I used to have phone numbers of my top twenty customers at my fingertips.  As for my family, dialing them was a no-brainer.  Wait, that's it ... no-brainer.  Years ago, I had all but given up on the expense of a land line telephone and used only a cell phone.  All the numbers I now required were long since programmed into that cell phone and called up on a menu; or better still, voice dialed from that phone.  

When did all that happen?

Oh sure, I've long recognized that there's only so much RAM memory in the personal computer and sometimes you have to overwrite existing data when you get a little short on space.  Not to get too technical, but I even recognize that as the hardware (me) gets a little older, some of the the sectors in that RAM memory become corrupted (damaged) and either garbled or no longer accept attempted new data entry.  I just don't remember when I turned this memory process over to a digital device that was designed to make phone calls on.

What else have I turned over to Samsung or HTC (phone manufacturers) over the last couple of years?  Oh my God!  I no longer remember any of my family's addresses.  Oh sure I can get to their houses, but I can't tell you their addresses any more.  What about birthdays or anniversaries ... nope, mostly gone.  Directions ... long gone.  How about appointments scheduled for my future?  Gone as well.  Oh no, what about the grandkids?  Whew, I can still remember all of them, though at times their ages are a little fuzzy without looking them up in my personal phone directory.  (Well thank goodness for that small favor.)  I thought that I had lost it completely. (I have of course, but a lack of mnemonic acuity appears to be an unrelated problem.)   

Somehow without noticing it, I have become utterly dependent on an electronic device to maintain the barest shred of memory with regards to the most important things in my existence.  Somehow, and without my conscious consent, I've given over control of my most basic memory functions, my knowledge of friends and family, even my basic connection to the outside world to a device that I'm allowed to replace every two years.  How could I, so proud in the achievement of my personal freedoms (within government strictures, at least), have become completely enslaved to a mere communication device?  How could I have relinquished such control to a sim card?  Oh, the shame of it all ...

So if I meet you on the street and you see me clutching tightly at my cell phone, fear not.  I am not a part of a movie plot and waiting for a tormentor to contact me to pass on the next clue in a cross-town scavenger hunt to save the world.  In fact, the device clutched in my fevered grip is my tormentor.  While apparently serving in large part for the mind I apparently no longer possess (or at least control), it has become a serious source of addiction that I can no longer refuse.  

If I appear unaware of you and others around me, take pity.  Having supplanted all but the most basic parts of my memory to it (though the feeding reflex is still apparently in good order), I have allowed my latest 'Smart Phone' to become far too smart for my own good.  This subtle and insidious obsession may have turned me into little more than a reflective simulacrum of its evil capabilities; a twisted electronic zombie, kept alive merely in service to Verizon Wireless.  So phone home if you can, while you can you fools.  There may be no such things as those pods from the B movies to worry about, but smart phones are real; and are coming for you too.

No comments: