DIANE PHILLIPS: So whose idea was it anyway?


Diane Phillips

By Diane Phillips

Long before someone decided to make life easier, there were a lot of everyday things you could to that were actually easier to do. Remember the days that you used a large impressive key to open a hotel room door? There was something classy about that. You felt you had arrived and taken possession, even if just for a day or two.

Nowadays, they give you a piece of plastic that has all your personal information embedded somewhere inside it. And if it doesn’t work - which a lot of times it doesn’t - you have to take it back down to the front desk and ask them for a new one and now there are two pieces of plastic with all your information on them and the front desk is reminding you to turn it in upon departure and security folks have warned you to destroy it before you go.

So, you are torn between orders from two credible sources. Should you turn in the plastic key card to make the person behind the desk appreciate that you are law-abiding and risk a sick-minded night worker getting all your personal info and setting his sights on your pathetic bank account, if not your front door since presumably you live far enough away to justify staying in his crummy hotel anyway? By now you are harbouring dislike for the whole system. You never felt those emotions when you had a plain ordinary old-fashioned key, did you? Admit it.

Have you tried to go to the bathroom in an airport in the last decade? In the old days, if you were female, you would prep the seat with a protective paper sleeve, sit, go, and flush upon completion. Seemed pretty simple. But someone decided they had to improve upon perfection so they arranged for a toilet to flush every time you got the paper sleeve situated just so and were about to go. Baloooooosh. The first time I ever heard it scared me half to death. Thought something had invaded the seat underneath me and was about to blow up the place with me with my underwear down which I could not remember at the moment were new or not. Did not even have to go to the bathroom anymore.

Maybe the idea of an unseen device automatically flushing for you was to protect us against that one in a thousand people who, so happy to have relieved themselves, forgets to flush so joe-anonymous happily does it for them. Over and over and over again.

Then there is the infamous check-in kiosk to add to your convenience at the airport. Well, they say it is for your convenience but, truth be told, it was pretty convenient before when you walked in, smiled at someone you knew or didn’t know but thought you might know, and walked straight up to the counter where someone you did not know was incredibly polite and said: “Where are you travelling to today?” and proceeded to do all the work.

Now, for your convenience you get to do all the work. With two arms and 10 fingers, assuming all are still attached, and a light suitcase and a personal item which includes your laptop, two cellphones, three chargers, your wallet, brush, pens, pad, passport and who-knows-what in your attempt to travel light and not struggle with another piece of luggage, you come to the kiosk.

Wrestling with your light suitcase and trying rest your overstuffed personal item pocketbook on top without spilling anything so you can get your passport and submit it to the scanner while holding on to said piece of luggage and bag which has a mind of its own and wants to tip over as you are submitting your passport to the scanner and trying to answer the questions on the screen correctly while watching the antics of your light luggage, you manage to check in and heave a sigh of relief.

OK, you passed the kiosk course and now for your convenience there is the little matter of getting through the security line when you stupidly forgot that you had to take off your shoes and you wore boots. The kind that zip up. OK, now you have your luggage and your personal item with electronics that would fill a display case in Best Buy and there is a baby stroller in front of you and a guy who looks like a football team behind you and you have to de-shoe. All because on December 22, 2001, a would-be terrorist on a flight from Paris to Miami packed his shoes with explosives and, from then on, millions of passengers have had to de-shoe before travelling.

What about all those people who smuggle drugs into countries by hiding them in private parts? What if they decided that was a security risk and we all had to bare our private parts to clear security? Though come to think of it, maybe that is what the vertical scanner does.

While we are on the subject of things that are more convenient or better for us remember the car radio dial? One knob went up and down for stations, another for volume. If you had a more sophisticated version, you could adjust for a little more bass or treble by turning the finer ring on the back of the volume or station knob. Later, you were able to make the ultimate choice – AM or FM before AM was relegated to a single role as ‘time of day’.

Get in a new car or rental car today and by the time you figure out the e-version of the plethora of offerings on a radio display, you wish you had paid more attention to statistics at school or something that would have prepared your brain for such challenges and chances are if you own the car you will be trading it in before you fully get to know the possible offerings of the radio.

Not every new-fangled fragment of our lives seems to make sense. Hot air hand dryers in bathrooms save trees but burn electricity which runs on fossil fuels. There are a thousand other things that make us feel as though we are moving backwards instead of looking forward but you’ve got to admit when you want a cold one, there is nothing like a pop top.

And not one of us is likely to rue the day when we first learned the miracle of e-mail. Like it or not, we are not going back to rotary radio dials and pre-kiosk check-ins. But maybe one day the big hotel room key will make a welcome comeback.


DDK 3 years, 9 months ago

Awesome write, particularly the bit about the self-flushing toilet! 'Twould be so nice if all of the mentioned items made a come-back. Think of all those under 30 on this planet that have no idea what they are missing! The age of new fandangled technology is certainly not the age of easy living!


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