It Makes Our Lives Easier

Technology. It makes our lives easier. Right?

I don’t have to have TV because I can watch shows on Netflix. As long as I have my internet connection, that is. Lose it, as I am prone to during big thunderstorms like the one last night, and I sit on my couch mourning my inability to engage in my nightly ritual.

Taking pictures is a breeze now. No film, no uncertainty on whether the picture was good, virtually no limitation on quantity. My phone, always in my pocket, has a great camera. I can take a picture anytime anywhere. Both it and my super-deluxe SLR camera have huge amounts of memory to store thousands of pictures.

I’ve thought about this when sifting through photos for loved one’s now-standard funeral slide shows. By the time my generation, and definitely my children’s generation, are dying, this process will likely be a nightmare. The standard 3 day window between death and funeral will have to stretch to a week to give the survivors time to search through millions of pictures stored on hard drives. Stored with helpful names like “DSC098773” or “img_12378”, because really, how many people get around to organizing their pictures? At least the shoebox of old is easy to sort through quickly and it only holds so many pictures!

Yes, the problems with digital pictures have been on my mind of late. See, Hal’s preschool requested I send a photo from each year of his life, from birth to age 5, preferably full face pictures. It’s part of a big project related to his preschool graduation coming up. They gave plenty of notice and I tried to get to it out of fear I’d forget. But I listened to my laid-back husband who said, “Oh, you’ve got plenty of time. You don’t need to do it now.”

So as I picked him up from school on the Thursday evening of the week we were to bring the pictures, I overheard another mom asking about the pictures and I panicked. Oh, no! They are due tomorrow!

I mentally ran down our evening’s schedule. Not looking good. It was already 5:30 and we were meeting for a quick supper at Taco Bell. My husband had choir practice at 6 while Jane needed to be at the high school at 6. I had a meeting at another church at 7 while Daryl had open house at 7. No one would be home before 8:30.

That’s ok, I thought. I’ll run home before my meeting to see what pictures I can find. We’ll finish up after the kids go to bed, upload them to Wal-Mart, pick them up in the morning. It’s tight but it’ll work.

Yeah. Right. It’ll work. Unless a storm hits and we lose our internet connection.

As the group I was with closed in prayer, my phone notified me of the impending danger. “Tornado Warning. Take Shelter Immediately. Severe Warning.” See? Technology is great.

Several people decided to disregard the warning and headed out to their cars. When they opened the door, I could hear the tornado sirens. Now, I’ve lived in this Texas town for 17 years and I don’t recall ever hearing the sirens for anything other than tests. This good Oklahoma girl knows that when the sirens sound, you better take heed. I returned to the building.

I started getting text messages and phone calls from my daughter and husband. She was at the high school, taking cover and begging us not to get on the road to retrieve her. He had taken the boys from the school and returned to the church next door and was camped out in a small hallway. I explored my surroundings and hunkered down near a closet in a small office. And then did what anyone in this connected age of technology would do. I posted on Facebook:

Tornado sirens just went off. My family is taking cover in three different locations across town. I wish we were all together.

I then noticed a friend on Facebook who was complaining about strange behavior with her text messages. I soon experienced problems too. The networks were having trouble keeping up. Calls and texts were not making it through. Our single most reliable devices were failing us.

Before long, the other two people holed up in the church office decided that the danger had passed and prepared to lock up. The sky and the National Weather Service disagreed. I called a nearby friend to see if I could go to her house but ultimately decided to take the extra few minutes to join my husband and the boys. Or my daughter at the high school. Which one? I didn’t have to decide right away but as I approached the road where I’d have to turn left for her or right to them, I still found myself unsure. I ultimately went for the boys, for reasons that make no sense in the light of day.

Eventually, there was a small break in the storm. One of the adults with Jane brought her to the church and we decided to head home. Not until we were on the road did I get a text from a friend worried about us because our area north of town was getting pounded and allegedly reporting 118mph winds. The weather was terrible and a tornado watch would remain in effect until much later that night. But we were home and, as it turned out, safe.

But we had no internet access beyond the data on our cell phones.

Texting with my dad had resulted in him emailing me photos from Hal’s birth, the one time period I had been unable to find on our computer. But I couldn’t get to the email from the computer and my phone wasn’t registering receipt of the emails. And even if I could get to them, I couldn’t upload them to get printed anyway. I went to bed with the hope that we’d have internet access in the morning.

We didn’t.

And thus began the ridiculous technological attempts to get what we wanted anyway. I first forwarded the emails that my phone now knew about to my husband. It’s near the end of the billing period and I’m getting tight on my data usage. Better for him to download the pictures than me. My plan was to then connect his phone to the computer, copy the pictures over USB, then burn all the pictures to a CD to be taken to Wal-Mart the old-fashioned way. But the computer wouldn’t recognize his phone as a USB device.

Fine, I said. Let’s use Bluetooth to transfer the picture from your phone to mine and then I’ll connect mine to the computer. He suggested we use NFC. You mean SBeam? I asked. We then huddled in our entry way, the children patiently waiting to be taken to school. We enabled NFC and SBeam. We put our Samsung phones back-to-back. He tried to send the picture. It didn’t work. We tried it several different ways. Eventually we turned on Bluetooth. Our phones recognized each other but the transfer failed. I suspected the picture wasn’t truely saved to his phone even though it claimed to be. At any rate, I ultimately told him I’d just download the picture to my phone – screw the data limit; go ahead and get them to school.

But my phone wouldn’t download the picture! I rebooted our computer and router in the vain hope that we could regain our internet connection. I rebooted my phone to see if it could download the picture after a fresh start. Nothing worked. I was surrounded by technology but couldn’t get what I wanted where I wanted when I wanted it.

I finally called the school and after confirming that they wouldn’t actually use the pictures before Monday, took a deep breath and went to work. Hopefully we’ll regain our connection to the internet, the world, and our sanity before then. Technology. It’s supposed to make our lives easier.