Does anyone but me ever get the feeling that society considers them obsolete?
I’m off to Sydney again tomorrow, but this time I’m flying (wings provided by Virgin Australia). I’d really prefer to drive as I usually do – so much less stressful than being at the mercy of other people’s schedules – but a sudden attack of laziness (and the knowledge of how much it would bother my N & D if I drove) suggested that since it’s only ten days since I got back from the last trip, another six-hour hoon down the highway might be pushing my aging self – although part of me still thinks that’s a cop-out, a self-indulgence and a betrayal of the sanctity of suffering as taught to me in my impressionable boarding-school youth.
Once I realised I needed to go (a funeral), I went online to book a ticket. Simple enough – although I could fly from Sydney to Bali for less money. (Don’t let anyone tell you rural Australia gets a fair deal.) And how they justify a hefty slug for online payment I’ll never know, except that they don’t have to, given there’s no other option. Still, I did as I was I told, and the e-ticket duly plopped into my inbox and I thought – Done!
Today in my inbox there’s a jaunty little missive telling me it’s time to check in online. I don’t want to check in online. I want to roll up to the desk, hand over my bag, get my boarding pass and exchange pleasantries with another human being. But the gods of progress and efficiency pale and tremble at the very thought, which is bad luck for them because I’m going to do it anyway. Because what, I ask you, is efficient about a computer knowing where I was 24 hours previously when I don’t show up at the gate to wave my electronic boarding pass? Am I in the terminal, am I stuck somewhere between home and the airport, or have I forgotten the whole idea and stayed in bed? And perhaps the biggest question of all, what are they going to do about it?
My best guess would be ‘nothing’, because really, unless I’ve left a bag of explosives in the bag drop-off and scarpered, who cares? And presumably if I’d done that, their all-seeing computer would pick it up.
Which brings me to the obsolescence. So far, I’m keeping up. I can do what they require me to do, even check in online if necessary. But there are others my age who can’t, and who’s to say the next piece of automated genius won’t be a step too far for me as well? Is the time fast approaching when only the young and computer-savvy will be able to board a plane? Has society decided that really, the old are far more trouble than they’re worth, and the easiest thing to do would be to restrict them to their burrows with an excess of technology, thus sidelining them without the fuss and publicity of outright extermination?
It would work, I think. Those of us who still remembered the variety and stimulation of human interaction would wither away and die of boredom and disgust. Or alternatively, we’d form a secret army using courier pigeons, recruit all those sick of communication by multiple choice, oust the machines and retake the world for humanity.