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Posts Tagged ‘Luddite’

Did you feel the Earth shake the other day? I took a step into the 21st Century. I bought a smart phone.

It all started with road signs, or rather, the lack of them. I’m disdainful of those who rely on GPS. I can read a road map just fine. Besides, GPS isn’t accurate in out of the way places, like the woods where I live. Before going on a trip, I consult Google Maps, but I rely on paper and ink road maps, as Google’s directions can go awry.

The problem is, so many places don’t label their roads accurately, if at all. Once, traveling north on US 301/US 1 in Georgia, I came to where the highways diverge. Signs said, “US 301 Left Lane” and “US 1 Right Lane,” so I got in the left lane. Then as I approached the intersection, signs pointed left for US 1 and right for 301! I hastily switched to the right lane. Other motorists ahead and behind me likewise swapped lanes. It looked like synchronized driving. I expected the road department to correct this, but every year it’s the same, the wrong signs slowly rusting away.

Florida may be known for its weirdness, but at least our Department of Transportation can label roads.

A few years ago, I visited Chattanooga. We saw a sign for the Chattanooga Choo Choo but couldn’t find it. There was no other signage to guide us. I had plotted my course and, looking for my turn, we saw something that made us laugh–a building with half a car sticking out the second story. I drove on.

Chattanooga is in a bowl surrounded by mountains and a river. I drove around and around in a circle but couldn’t find my intended route. Finally—a sign for the highway I wanted. Then I spotted something else—a car sticking out the second story of a building! We should have turned left at that intersection, but there had been no road sign. The highway took us up by Look Out Mountain, but by then I was in no mood for sightseeing. I only wanted to get away from that town. Maybe I’ll go back someday with GPS as well as a map, but Chattanooga lost my business that day.

One modern convenience I’ve embraced is the cell phone. In the last century, we had a car phone at work for whoever was on-call. Coverage was poor in remote areas, but it came in handy in case of trouble. Eventually, I got my own car phone. After the rest of the world moved on to cell phones, I kept my bag phone until it was so obsolete there was no fix when it malfunctioned. So I graduated to a cell phone. The world advanced to “smart” phones, but I was content with my “dumb” phone.

I noticed young people using their smart phones for GPS, Facebook, and myriad apps, but I had my road maps and a computer at home. Who needs to be “connected” every waking minute? I try hard to be a Luddite.

Ned Ludd

Ned Ludd

Actually, this term is widely misused. In the early 19th century, Ned Ludd was a fictitious leader of textile workers who protested unemployment and low wages. In loosely organized bands, they attacked factories and destroyed machinery. The original Ned Ludd was a young man who supposedly smashed stocking frames after a confrontation with his boss in 1779. Today, Luddite refers to someone who lives in the past, is inept with technology, or fears or resists innovation.

In 1829, Thomas Carlyle said that technology was causing a “mighty change” in “modes of thought and feeling. Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand.” We are still wary of technology making us grow “mechanical in head and heart.” Some modern Luddites destroy things, such as with computer viruses, but most of us are innocently suspicious of and resistant to change.

Luddites

Luddites

Don’t ask me why. I’m typing this on a machine that has spell check, synonyms, and other features that make writing easier. Remember typewriters? You literally had to bang the keys on the old manual ones. If you made a mistake, you covered it with a white substance and retyped. The result didn’t look as clean and professional as this page will be when (or if) I print it. I constantly change my mind about wording and placement of phrases. In the old days, I’d have to retype the whole page. Now I can highlight and delete, retype, or drag a section to where I want it. Instead of typing “Chattanooga” half a dozen times, I highlighted, copied, and pasted the word, as I just now did. Sometimes technology ain’t so bad.

After my fellow writers kept bringing their laptops to our critique sessions while I relied on written notes, I bought one for myself. (And I’d always prided myself on being above peer pressure.) Earlier this month I volunteered at Wekiva Youth Camp and took my laptop. Our cabin had no Wi-Fi, yet my friends could read their email on their smart phones. It was nice to take a vacation from email, but I faced a mountain of it when I got home. To top it off, one of the ladies pays less for her smart phone service than I did for my dumb phone! That’s when I considered getting one.

So I called Verizon. The nice young man said I could get an iPhone for 99 cents. Of course, the nice young lady at the store tried to sell me bells and whistles, but I resisted. No written directions were included. Probably no one reads them anyway. I wasted over an hour trying to figure out how to set the alarm clock, then found directions online. Unfortunately, they’re as hard to follow as written directions. Maybe I’m still a Luddite.

Now if only I can figure out GPS, perhaps I won’t get quite so lost where they don’t post proper road signs.

 

 

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