Sweet dreams are made of talking to people, not machines

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!

Silly me!

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.


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16 Responses to Sweet dreams are made of talking to people, not machines

  1. Hear, hear! I had the same conversation the other day, though it had to do with computers in cars and how one company, (Ford?) is recalling a bunch because company technicians managed to hack the onboard computer and take control of the vehicle. This gives me the heebie-jeebies!

  2. Noah Weiss says:

    Although human interaction seems to be going out of style in service, I think that it will never become obsolete.

  3. I really like the carrier pidgeon idea. It just took a second try to type the word pidgin – see what auto spell check has done. I really get tired of spell check’s shirt sometimes.

  4. wscottling says:

    If everything I’ve read about age demographics is true, that won’t be the way to go… soon the older generation will outnumber the younger generations. Even now, here in the United States, the only growth we’re experiencing is immigration rather than babies born. So, companies had better start thinking about that and cater to both the baby boomers and the millennials (I don’t know if you name your generations the same as we do).

  5. bkpyett says:

    Excellent post Helen. Sorry you had a funeral to go to, but your sentiments about taking your ticket to a person really resonates with me. I hope you’re not right about technology keeping us prisoners though. I get so frustrated already.

  6. Aunt Beulah says:

    As a pre-boomer, I’ve received the same message you; we’re relatively unimportant in the over-all scheme of things and should just eat our suppers and go to bed. So I’d be among the first to sign up to have real conversations and retake the world for humanity. Thanks for putting the notion in my head.

  7. We have come to that point too where driving long distances is pretty wearing, mentally and physically. But with all the weird security stuff, flying is even worse. The result is that we don’t travel much at all.

    Our age group, seniors, own the majority of pretty much everything, yet the world acts as if we don’t exist — or if we do, we’re merely an annoyance. I try not to take it personally. Not sure how successful I am at that. I guess we are lucky. We still have a few live friends and most important, each other.

    • The thing I find most irritating is that they seem to think we’ve learned NOTHING in our lives, or if we have, we’re all too senile to remember it. I suppose the young have always been arrogant, but that doesn’t excuse the money-grubbing middle-aged in politics and business.

  8. LisaV says:

    We can start our own “obsolesence” island :). My friends laugh at me because I prefer to actually “talk” on the phone instead of text, and my cell phone doesn’t even have a camera or WiFi (and I’m only a GenX-er refusing to conform). By the way, you are living the dream…writing and living on the beach. Enjoy!

    • I think my phone does have a camera and wi-fi, but I won’t be rushing to find out – and as for reading books on a device…! And never fear, I enjoy every minute of living the dream, constantly aware of how lucky I am!

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