The Best Laid Plans
Those jokes about parents asking their 5-year-olds to program the VCR? I was that 5-year-old. From getting that black rectangle to stop blinking "12:00" to wiring the family stereo to setting up Outlook for Windows 3.1 on our first home computer (a beige Compaq Presario with a 5.25" floppy disk drive), I became my family's point person for the electronic revolution.
They thought I had a gift. In reality, I just happened to be part of the generation touched by technology from birth. And like most from that generation, when cellphones started to become serious consumer devices in the early 2000s, I was first in the first line to buy one.
Flash forward 10 years, and most people have had a smartphone so long it is no longer an accessory; it is an extension of the mind. Our pocket brains remember all the boring but important data-passwords, schedules, account numbers, birthdays-so we can dedicate more of our own minds to the here-and-now. We don't even need to think about how we will remember when we have a meeting with a big client or when we need to see the dentist-our phones will send us a nice reminder 15 minutes, one hour, one day or one week before the event.
Since the beginning I've trusted my technology, and today I trust, in the most complete way, that my phone knows everything I'm supposed to know so I don't have to. It has done just that for more than a decade, with the single exception of last month when it ended up somewhere on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. (Boat tour + trying to capture the perfect sunset + "hey is that a dolphin" + mob rush = I don't want to talk about it.)
It was day two of a three-week trip away from the office, starting in Naples, Florida and ending at Expo East in Atlantic City, and I had just lost my plane tickets, my schedule, my address book, my map, my hotel reservations, my articles, my research, my friends, my family, my memories, my mind. I couldn't even remember my girlfriend's phone number to ask her to pick me up from the dock.
Don't judge. When's the last time you remembered a phone number?
The worst part of the trust and dependence I've placed on that phone is getting out of the habit of keeping a notebook at all times. I had no planner in my suitcase with an itinerary for the next 21 days, no calendar of events, not even a printout with hastily scrawled notes to guide me. It's the first instance in a very, very long time that I couldn't simply look at my phone to know what came next.
These days, you don't ever truly lose everything when you lose your phone. Contacts are in the cloud and receipts are in email, and a quick trip the next day to a Verizon center saw most of my information restored. What wasn't restored was my confidence. I knew that I couldn't completely rely on my phone to do all my thinking for me, and that no matter how convenient it may be, nothing beats having a hard copy. Our planner story in the June issue covers just some of the many benefits of putting the important things on paper.
Later that day, I ordered a planner online. On my phone, of course. Baby steps.