I can get lost getting out of an unfamiliar shower. That’s why I have a GPS device, though I probably won’t use it in the shower.
It saves me time—and temper—getting where I need to go. That’s such a great help to me. It saves me from stopping in the middle of the road trying to decide if I should go left or right. That’s such a great help to everyone else.
But I’m concerned there may a drawback. Navigating challenges a part of my brain that anyone who knows me would say could use a little more work. Will it get even lazier if I use it less? Will I become more helpless than I already am? It’s happening in other areas of my life, and I bet it is in yours too. On the one hand, we’re becoming adept at remembering passwords and following complex technical instructions. At least some people are.
On the other hand, if my computer crashes tomorrow, I’m not sure I’ll be able to balance my checkbook. It does it for me. It checks my spelling too, though it Mrs. sum miss takes. And I haven’t played solitaire with an actual deck of cards since I got my first home computer, though I have played solitaire—a lot. But I’m not sure I can even shuffle anymore.
A light on my dashboard warns me that I’m about to run out of gas. I couldn’t leave my lights on if I tried—and I have tried. But they shut off when I shut my car off. There’s a beep to remind me to buckle my seatbelt and a beep to remind me to take the keys from the ignition before I lock the doors. But I always buckled my seatbelt before all that beeping. And I didn’t leave my lights on, lock my keys in the car, or run out of gas—much. If the beeps stop beeping, will I start regularly leaving my lights on and locking my keys in when I set off hiking to the gas station?
There are cars that warn the driver when she’s about to back into something. Mine doesn’t do that, but I hope some day I have one that does. Still practice makes perfect and that’s a skill I’d rather not let get too rusty.
I don’t have to look up phone numbers; I can ask Siri to dial them. But looking up numbers in the phone book was the main way I practiced my alphabet skills.
Now that most of my clocks are digital, I may also be forgetting how to tell time. And I haven’t added or subtracted in my head since I got my first calculator. (Maybe I never added and subtracted in my head.)
I don’t have to rely on my memory any more; I can always call home on my cell phone and ask my family to make sure I started the dishwasher or unplugged the iron. Of course, that’s a poor example, since my iron is capable of shutting itself off. Also, I rarely use it.
I don’t prepare for emergencies anymore. I just count on my cell phone working if I’m in trouble. That may not be wise since I don’t always pay attention when it warns me to charge its battery.
I don’t have to remember when to leave for an appointment or send a birthday card; my electronic calendar reminds me of everything. I don’t always do what it reminds me of, but I do always feel guilty at the right time.
So I’m becoming increasingly helpless. If it all crashes tomorrow, how I will ever be able to handle my life with ease and grace like I do now? Hey wait…
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of the humor book, I Didn’t Know You Could Make Birthday Cake from Scratch: Parenting Blunders from Cradle to Empty Nest. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Self-Reliance is not what it used to be