Monday, February 21, 2011

Smart Guy

I was playing golf recently when my attention was drawn to four young men on an adjacent fairway.

They walked toward the green in a single file, heads bowed, silent, as though they were initiates in some sort of Druid ceremony.

Upon closer inspection I realized they were absorbed in their smartphones, either texting or reading e-mails or surfing the web. In the middle of a match. On a beautiful course dotted with all manner of flora and fauna.

The incident underscored my belief that we may very soon evolve into a race of people with bowed necks and downturned gazes, the result of continuous smartphone use.

I offer as evidence a recent YouTube video of a young woman at a shopping mall who was so intent on her phone she walked straight into a fountain where she splashed like a turtle on its back for several minutes before pulling herself to dry land.

Well, I vowed, they won't get me. I will remain head held high and eyes forward for the rest of my days.

Alas, fate intervened. I lost my cellphone, a simple model that merely made and received phone calls, and allowed myself to be sold a new model that records videos, has movie, TV, magazine, newspaper and social-network access, offers games, displays your e-mail, functions as a calendar and alarm clock, gives you directions to your destination, plays music, even finds your car if it's lost. Among other things.

And while they call them smartphones, I'm not sure I was so smart in buying one. Because once you've become adept in operating them, you're addicted.

Like the unsuspecting citizenry in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," I have become one of "them," a member of the mesmerized cellphone zombies to whom all life outside of their handheld devices is irrelevant if not nonexistent. I, for one, welcome our new technological overlords.

That's not exactly true. I have maintained enough humanity to lead a somewhat normal life. Just because I've skipped a few meals so I can afford to pay for all the extra goodies my phone has to offer doesn't mean I'm a bad person.

These extra goodies are called "apps," short for applications. The lovely young salesthing at the phone store told me there are 100,000 of them available through the phone. Some are free, most charge extra.

To be sure, many of these apps have some legitimate value, offering books and reference, business and education downloads, health and fitness advice.

Then there are these culled from my smartphone and the Internet:

The iNap@Work app plays a series of recorded typing, clicking, stapling or pencil sharpening sound effects to fool your coworkers into thinking you're being productive. Meanwhile, you're enjoying a post-lunch nap.

One app keeps track of how many beers you drink. You have to pay for it but it's probably a lot cheaper than getting a DUI after forgetting how many beers you've had throughout the course of the night.

Health officials in New York have released an app to help its citizens find free condoms. It's designed to locate the five nearest venues that distribute official NYC Condoms in jazzy wrappers printed with colorful subway maps or other city themes.

It could be used in concert with the Roman Catholic App, designed to be used as a confessional, with a personalized examination of conscience for each user.

The Taxi Hold Em application makes a loud whistling sound and displays a bright taxi sign to get the attention of nearby cabbies. It also alerts muggers that you are near.

iMouse is a call alert application. Whenever you have an incoming call, a little naughty mouse appears, knocks at the screen and shouts "Hey! Haaaay!! Knock. Knock. Please answer your phone."

Then, for those who just can't get their fill of fascism, there's the iMussolini app that includes audio, video and transcripts of 120 speeches by the wartime Italian leader.

And for those who can't be separated from their smartphones even momentarily, there is the LM Technologies Bluetooth bracelet. It vibrates if the user moves more than five feet away from the phone.

Ain't technology grand.

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