McAdams On: Techno-Divide Times Time

“All you do is take the 101 north and get off at Santa Rosa, then you take a left and another left...”

“Just tell me the name of the cemetery.”

“... and then it’s just up the road a ways before you...”

“How about the funeral home? What’s the name of the funeral home?”

“I’m telling you how to get there. If you just listen. I’m telling you how to get there.”

“I know. Thank you so much. But I have no idea where any of these roads are. I need to see them on a map.”

“... and the next left, and then you’re there....”

“Please. I’m begging you. The name of the funeral home, so I can map it out on a computer program.”

“Fine,” she said, not followed by, “what kind of imbecile can’t remember three left turns?”

To me, she was a 90-year-old who couldn’t grasp I hadn’t lived in her neighborhood all my life. To her, I was a whippersnapper who couldn’t get from point A to point B without a computer. That I’m still a whippersnapper to anyone is worth a weekend in Cabo, but she had no idea what a fossil I was. I printed the directions out from MapQuest! What’s worse is that I memorized them before I left.

OK, three left turns. Whatever. There were mileages in between.

The point is, I do not have a space-based global navigation system in my pristine 1995 Hello Kitty Interceptor. Perhaps I’d be less traffic-averse if I had one. Side cannons and retractable barbed axel spikes would help, but they are politically incorrect. A Garmin nüvi is both politically correct and très chic because it cannot be bothered with a majuscule. Only the finest personal electronics brush off capitalization.

And so it is that just getting somewhere illustrates the yawning cleft of techno-division. Soon the nüvi will do the driving, and those of us left gripping a steering wheel will be the stuff of feature stories in the local newsOLED. “Woman Drives Car with Hands and Feet.”

I’m neither a technophobe nor a complete Luddite. I’m more of a fiscal Luddite. I became one after spending a good chunk of college scholarship money on a first-wave Power Mac, Zip Drives and a full suite of publishing software. All of it was obsolete before the check cleared. Bragging rights in the world of electronics pass like Mayflies, while power cords pile up like beer cans at a tailgate party.

None of these electronic gizmos give off oxygen, although they do power the world economy, otherwise known as the Verizon voice, text and data plan. I appreciate that purchasing small plastic chassis full of silicon chips that incur monthly $100 charges is the only thing between me and a Dorothea Lange perspective.

Yet I can’t resist feeling just a bit smug about being able to read a map. Even if I can’t take directions.

“So... I’m glad to see you got here.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you. Just like you said.” -- from the Sept. 21, 2010 issue of TV Technology