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Going wireless - Martha Carr

There was a moment this past week when I suddenly felt every ounce of my age, which is 50 for just a couple more weeks. It wasn't because I was tired or anything creaked or ached.

I was in a marketing meeting with a group of twenty-something's when it happened.

Just as we were about to get started, one of them announced she'd need our phone numbers again. Her Blackberry had been stolen and she was truly wireless and had been for an entire day.

The room gasped and they immediately started to pepper her with questions about how she was doing, was she able to function. You'd have thought she had injured an important body part. I was expecting someone to coordinate dinners for her.

She looked appropriately stoic like people often do after they relate the story of a drama in their life, like a bad car accident. Apparently, now we can add the loss of a personal appliance to that list.

I wanted to pipe up with the thought that when I was their age, all of the phones were permanently attached to places in the house by the phone company. We went around wireless all of the time.

Arrangements had to be made about where to meet up and when, and people made an effort to be on time because there was no way of letting someone know you'd be late.

We kept all of those appointments written down in a small book that often had the phone numbers in there, too. The really important numbers and meetings were kept in our head. There was a lot more brain space available back then before PIN numbers and multiple passwords and sign-on names.

If you weren't home when someone called, you didn't even know they had tried to call. No answering machines, no voice mail and a lot fewer expectations. There wasn't this idea that business or social interactions could be carried on at all times, from all places. It was possible to be out of touch on a daily basis, and sit there in the moment hanging out with only the people right in front of you.

Now there's a phone app called FourSquare that will post automatically on your Facebook page where you are standing with the picture of a little street map. Not only can I follow your tweets about the cold you're suffering from, or the book you published yourself, but I can map your day in a city I've never visited. That's progress.

The CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, even predicts that the trend is going to continue to the point that your phone will know where you are at any given time, what you're reading, what you like to do, wear, eat, and will offer tidbits of information that tie all of those things together. In other words, your appliances will start to answer questions for you that you didn't know you have yet. GPS marketing has arrived.

Schmidt believes that whoever controls the flow of information will be the next big thing on the block. I'd bring up the tired cliche of Big Brother, but we passed that awhile ago. This is more like Minority Report where there was a constant flow of ads in everyone's face telling them what they wanted. Sure, there's been a marketing ploy to do that since man first started selling things, but we were always able to pick and choose when we'd listen to the sales pitch.

Now, it's impossible to go to anywhere without watching several ads before something starts. Schmidt is suggesting we should even be getting an alert while just walking down the street that there's something we'd like to buy just around the corner.

Suddenly, I have an inkling of an idea about what the next Great Recession may involve and when it first got started. Mark your calendars with today's date.

Back at that marketing meeting, I chose to keep quiet and just sat back to observe the rounds of concern. I figured it would sound too much like I didn't feel her pain, which I didn't and would make the gulf between our generations too apparent.

I also suddenly felt a little kinship with the old man I met when I was just a little girl, who tried to explain to me how you crank a car. At the time, I thought it was really quaint. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.