Ghost in the Machine


I wonder where we all went wrong – thinking that computers and making programs and services was really to help people, when it just doesn’t seem like it turned out that way. I used to be able to remember my best friends’ phone numbers. I could dial their digits in the dark. Now, I can’t contact a single person more than 4 blocks away if I don’t have a computer! New “features” and “capabilities” pile up on intrusive devices that seem to create more conflict than help. I suppose our efforts to master this new technology will take some time. People and society are becoming more fluent using new mediums, devices, and technologies – although to me, it still feels like I continue to trip over computers in every aspect of my life. I find that I have to be patient at the register when the credit card machine isn’t working, or realize that I’m putting up with a task that takes more time to get to my voice mail, than actually listening to it.

Amid the cell phones losing connection, and microwaves blinking with the wrong time, I recently found a silver lining in my computer world. When I upgraded cell phones a few weeks back, I transfered all my contacts: some old, some new, some needing to be deleted and updated. And I found a number that I hadn’t dialed in a long time. It was the phone number of a dear friend of mine, Mr. Pickett. He had passed away years before around the time I received my first cell phone. I have since transfered his number and name with each passing cell phone – but never able to call him, his land line number disconnected a long time ago. I smile when I see his name, ironically thankful for my cell phone. Grateful that someone thought of a way to transfer contacts, not with my “user story” in mind, but probably with an intention to prevent people from having to re-enter contacts into their cell phone before “smart phones” existed.

Without my cell phone, I would be without any artifact or reminder of my old friend. It’s nice to see his name in my phone, and whenever I get a new phone and I’m doing major “contact housekeeping”, I always pass his name and think to myself – “should I delete his number?”. I pause, rationalizing why I delete my old insurance guys’ number and if I should send Mr. Pickett’s contact info to a similar fate of synced oblivion… but after so many cell phones and transfers, he’s a part of me. He lives in my phone even though I can’t call him anymore, and it feels nice. Even in the midst of alerts and emails downloading, the thing that invades and controls, is the only thing that holds this piece of my past – and makes me smile.

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