Hominy & Hash
WHEN KNOWLEDGE IS NO LONGER POWER
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- It's not as if I were born yesterday; I've been around through every technical innovation since the dial telephone. Since then, I've always had the ability to dial a number and reach my party any place in the world. If my telephone were not functioning for some reason or other, I could use a neighbor's, a service station's, a public phone booth, and be as aware of the system as I was at home.
I've moved along with the times and now maneuver my way through Automatic Teller Machines when I'm out, and do Internet banking, moving funds around securely right from my own kitchen table. I can purchase anything from anywhere as long as I have the funds to back it up ... and whether I do or not is instantly discernible to the dealer at the other end.
Thus, I've always been comfortable. High technology moves faster than I can rise from that kitchen table but, nevertheless, I don't feel like a dinosaur in a horse race.
Until I travel. All my comforts are left at home where I have cable television channels programmed to my liking, easily accessed using my familiar remote control, bringing in network shows through channels available in my area.
When we think of advanced technology most of us think of how far we've come from a small black and white set in the '50s to the room-sized entertainment centers available today - complete with split screens, CDs, DVDs, VHSs and other ingredients in an alphabet soup most of us are still learning. (This isn't a test; don't ask me to spell out those terms.) Each component comes with its own remote control, although a universal remote control is available and everything can work from that one remote. But only in my house. I must leave home without it.
Programming these remotes is relatively easy. Just ask anyone under 20 - friend, relative, kid rolling by on a skateboard - and they'll set you up in 10 minutes. They also do Rubic Cubes in less time than programming a remote will take (I've been working 10 years without success on that challenge.) Where was I when human brains got rewired?
This tuned-in generation reminds me of the four or five kids in a class who wave their hands mumbling, "I know that, I have the answer, let me do it... ." while the teacher allows you to squirm in place, staring at the problem, not having a clue, knowing you know but just can't articulate the correct answer.
Fairly recently, it seems, anytime a dot.com was mentioned, the speaker enunciated clearly, told you the sign for "at" and spelled out all the words, no spaces, lower case, starting with "www" for the World Wide Web. No longer. Now it's merely "check us out at whatever dot com." You'll don't have to precede it with www and use lowercase, no spaces. And, if you don't know how to find the World Wide Web, well, where have you been?
My all too limited knowledge, confined to the familiar, came to me over the holidays. I actually hadn't realized how "programmed" our lives in our own homes have become. Visiting daughters was once the same as walking into our own kitchens - they were "programmed" to set it up a certain way, thanks to their moms. Now, thanks to high technology, that is no longer so. Oh, the coffee tastes the same and the menus are similar, but getting there is very different.
I'm not at home. I wake up early in a household that sleeps late. I slip downstairs to the kitchen ready to start the coffee and find it all set up, justwaiting for someone to press START. I smile and press the button with a flourish.
"Oh my God, what have I done?" I whisper to myself, trying to shush the loud, very loud, grinding noise as the coffee beans go from whole bean to finely ground coffee, taking an endless minute. After that shot of adrenaline, I didn't need the coffee to bring me to full alert.
No one woks up, but I refrigerated a carafe of coffee for tomorrow morning planning to microwave a cup and leave the brewing to someone else.
As usual, I wake at 5:00 a.m. (I've been told starting your day around dawn is nature's compensation for varicose veins.) I pour a cup of cold coffee from the carafe and open the microwave oven. Uh, oh. It opens noisily. It closes with a snap and there is no way to do it quietly. I face the screen hoping the door sounds were sufficiently muffled and reach start minutes and seconds. But, it's not like mine at home. It offers Express 1 or Express 2.
I'm not that brave. I press nothing. I reach for the ever-ready saucepan on the back burner and silently pour the remaining coffee from the carafe. As silently, I turn on the gas and watch the blue flames lick the copperclad pot.
Just like the old days, I'm thinking. It's a moment of reverie quite different from the hyperactivity I bring to a microwave - designed for those in a hurry whether they are or not. I usually tell the microwave to hurry up. There's never enough time to leave the room and come back, but it takes too long to wait around.
I set the coffee down close to the television set, planning to watch the news at sunrise. Do I dare turn it on? No, I decide, the warm brew is enough in creature comforts just now. I can't find "Mute" on their remote. If it's sunrise I want, I'll quietly slide open the patio door and catch it live. When last I checked, the dawn still comes up quietly.
"Oooeeeeoooeeeeoooee!" I cover my ears to shut out the screeching alarm, not knowing what I did or how to undo it. It seems I touched the sliding door and the alarm went off - not only here but at the police station, too.
For the next two days, we'll be with our other daughter, 25 miles away. When she says "You just sit back and let us wait on you," we will.