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Experiencing technical difficulties - Michael Davis

Every now and then, you have to sit back and admire the sheer complexity of living in a modern age. But, once in a while, you've got to sit back and wonder what exactly went wrong.

I'm all for technology. Some wonderful advances have been made in the last few decades. From space travel to medicine, scientific advancement has made life for all of us a little safer, more comfortable and a shade easier.

But for some, lapses in common sense, good judgment and sometimes, just plain ignorance of how technology works, has made life at times frightening and at others, quite humorous.

It seems as though some company in Britain that runs a giant Ferris wheel imported from France can't figure out how to change the recorded commentary that came with it.

While visiting the city of Birmingham, England, one can apparently ride this Ferris wheel and hear a recording much like that of a guided tour.

It might go something like this: Ladies and gentlemen, if you look to your right, you'll see the world famous Eiffel Tower and if you look just below, you'll see the banks of the Seine River and off in the distance, the world renown Musee de Louvre.

But, as mentioned earlier, the Ferris wheel sits across the channel from its originally intended plot yet the owners seem not to mind the irrelevant voice-over that came with the wheel. For them, the novelty of the misrepresented locale is probably making them more money than they ever dreamed.

It occurs to me, however, that the owners of this tourist attraction might somehow, in some form, relate to that portion of the American society to which I myself might belong: cannot-program-his-VCR-ians.

This social classification is however not restricted to those who have a "12:00" forever flashing on the window of home theater electronics.

This species of human can manifest itself in the form of those who, like myself, dare not struggle to once again record an outgoing answering machine message after it's been erased by a power outage.

Or those who refuse to turn their cellular phones off because they don't know how to switch to the "silent" vibrating mode.

I would like to think I might have elevated to a level outside of this class, but I'll admit that once, I was caught in a college class by a ringing cell phone. Like most others, it took me longer than it should have for me to realize it was mine, but since that time, when I learned a very valuable lesson, I've not been embarrassed in that way.

But sometimes, marvelous automation can produce more than embarrassing moments.

I recall a month or so ago, reports that the New York Port Authority failed to change an automated message that gave out a schedule of departure and arrival times.

It seems until recently, one could call the authority and hear a recorded message that said trains were still stopping underneath the World Trade Center.

Needless to say, once this was brought to public's attention, there was outrage at the lack of respect for victim's families and how something so ghostly could be overlooked for so long.

So next time your power goes out, don't feel bad if your VCR blinks for a few days or forever. Don't feel like you have to immediately bother to record a new answering machine message so people will know exactly who they're calling.

You are not alone. And some have done much worse.

Michael Davis is the public safety reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Tuesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at mdavis@henryherald.com.