There’s an old adage that tells us you can count on two things in this world: death and taxes. But I would like to add one more element to this saying: technological advances. Let me explain by reflecting on some of the changes in how we navigate the world and live our lives that I have experienced. 

First, automobiles have become more sophisticated with internal systems that tell you if you’re too close to another vehicle, or if you’re about to hit a curb or a wall – even a pedestrian. So, you don’t need to learn how to look in your rear mirror or pay attention as much as I did when I first learned to drive. I find that a bit disturbing.  

And while Harriett Tubman had to learn how to lead people from slavery to freedom by following the stars or feeling the moss which grew on trees, today we simply pull out our cellphones to tell us where we are or what directions we need to take to reach our desired destination. The problem, however, remains, what happens when your cellphone or OnStar navigator aren’t working or are out of power. Only a few of us know how to read a map – if you can find one, that is. 

Speaking of cellphones, even my own children gasp when I remind them that I grew up being required to memorize phone numbers and that we didn’t have an answering machine. You had to write messages down. I was like a walking white pages – able to rattle off the numbers of some 30 or 40 family members and friends whenever my parents said, “What’s that phone number again?” 

Today, our phones have the numbers in their memory banks. However, just say you lose your phone or for some reason, it doesn’t work. Do you still have that number stored somewhere else – perhaps, I hazard to say – written down in a phone book? What’s a phone book, some of you may be asking. 

Revisiting the way we communicate with one another, I have to reiterate one of my least-favorite means of communication: texting. I do not like texts at all. But it isn’t because I can’t see their usefulness. After all, there are times when it’s more efficient to reply with a brief note or to send one when you’re unable to call the party in question. 

I detest texting because most people assume that you should reply right away. They assume that you should and will answer them without hesitation or delay. I find that assumption to be insulting. After all, do I look like I’m sitting in my rocking chair, doing nothing, free as a bird, hoping to get a text so I can text the individual back? 

I resent when people send a text and then send me a series of follow-up messages that say something like this: “Are you there, are you there, are you there?” Yes, I’m “there.” I’m just not available. I have to put on my reading glasses, then enter my security code, then read the note and then respond. Then, they text me back. So, I have to put on my reading glasses, then enter my security code, then read the note. And then they respond. And the vicious cycle continues. 

I mean, when you send an email or leave a voice message, am I required to reply right away? I don’t think so. What gives a text greater importance? I fail to understand. 

Finally, there’s the Smart TV. I have a curved, big-screen color television that I bought about five years ago for my mother. As she struggled with dementia, the larger screen, the more vivid colors and the enhanced sound system really helped her enjoy watching television. In fact, she was almost captivated. 

But when I was a little boy, color televisions were just becoming available to consumers. Our first color TV was a huge, ugly box that took up so much space in our living room that you couldn’t miss it. 

Not to be outdone, one day some friends of my parents called and invited us to stop by to see their new color television. 

Over the river and through the woods we went across the westside of Detroit to see what wonderful new addition the Davis family had made in their home. To my surprise, they still had a black and white TV. But to add “color,” they had placed strips of crepe paper across the screen in various colors – creating, if you will, their own “color TV.” 

My father laughed for so long, that his friends, Steve and Bernice Davis, asked him to leave. We didn’t leave but I sure wanted to. After all, we had a real color TV back home.

It’s funny how technological advances can both enhance our lives and be a pain in the behind. 

I’m just saying!   

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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