During the early 2000’s – in my late teens – I was assigned the task of booking the cooking gas cylinder as and when needed. We had two cylinders at home and with one finishing off , it was replaced instantly with the other and the pre-booking of the next one was to be done. I remember getting to the gas agency one sunny mid-morning and faced a messy crowd at the counter who weren’t in any organised queue as such. It was chaotic. There were just two helpless women behind the counter trying to attend to the unruly customer enquirers. Customers flocked the reception desk like swamps – each one trying to get attention. I stood beside waiting helplessly, wondering how long it was going to take for my turn to arrive.
Midst this the phone at the counter kept ringing constantly and was attended by one of the ladies. Most of the callers who called in were people who intended to the same as I – they wanted to book their gas cylinders. The continuous ringing sounded irritating given the situation. The lady who picked the calls had no choice but to do the bookings for those who had called in. As the customers on the line were giving her their booking numbers, she was forced to pull out their gas cards (that were arranged in neat boxes as per numbers..computer databases hadn’t seeped in as of yet) and booked in their cylinders.
So , it sooo happened that those individuals who made the time and effort to get their bookings done in person were without a choice getting a lower priority than those who called in from the comfort of their nests.
Technology was winning over flesh and blood ? it was there happening right in front of me, as I stood their helplessly not willing to compete with the hapless crowd. Meantime, I observed on how phone calls after phone calls customers who called in were successfully getting their work done while I had failed on the same whilst standing there as a human – flesh and blood. And as time ticked by I lost all hope of getting the attention of the women in charge. I had to change my strategy.
The mission began. I searched the notices on the wall of the agency for their number. Memorized it. I looked around for a telephone coin booth (mobile phones hadn’t captured people as of yet). I spotted one. I walked up to there and dialed the number – of course I heard a busy tone at the first few attempts and by the third try the phone rang and it was answered by the very same lady whose face I was staring at as she was answering other calls for the past 15 minutes. I gave her my booking number and got my way through. I walked passed the gas agency looking at my co-customers who were still waiting, sweating off hopes.
It was a small and simple everyday incident that made me realize that such instances happen everywhere in the world. Happen everyday of our lives. Technology rules ! Humans loose !
Ever since the 2000’s with the advent of the internet, the mobile phone mania, 3G, 4G, Status symbols in form of tablets and handhelds, Games and news on the go….Life has been on a fascinating journey. It’s convenience personified – at the tap of a button your food arrives, at the tap of the button you communicate with your friend across the globe – forgetting the person in person interacting with you. The heartaches of wives whose husbands are hooked to their gadgets which become their mistresses in disguise.
I found solace when I read a Facebook post (quiet – ironically ! The medium which is used as a new communication mode between next door neighbors these days) It talked about a 18 point contract that a mom in the US made her teenage son sign as he was presented a hi-tech gadget as a Christmas gift :
1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?
2. I will always know the password.
3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad”. Not ever.
4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30pm every school night & every weekend night at 9:00pm. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30am. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.
5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.
6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.
7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.
8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.
9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.
10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person ? preferably me or your father.
11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.
12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.
13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.
14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO — fear of missing out.
15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.
16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.
17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.
18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You & I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.
It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone. Merry Christmas!
The Teen is Greg Hoffman and my salutes to his mom Janell Hoffman .
“You wouldn’t’ give your kid a car without making sure they had insurance and so giving them a cell phone or a computer without teaching them how to use it responsibly is irresponsible on the part of the parent.”
On a side note – As M would enter his teens 8 years from now – I know well what to do before handing him his very own smart phone 🙂