COLUMN: Taking the air out of technology

Are some of today’s advancements really worth the trouble?

I consider myself a pretty tech-savvy person.

Among my friends, I was among the first to buy, and make sense of, a smartphone – a chunky, now-obsolete Blackberry – and I’m often the go-to person in the newsroom for any computer-related calamity.

I’m all up-to-date on most recent Internet memes, too, for what that’s worth.

So considering all this, imagine my recent confusion upon taking a seat in the pickup truck that, a few days later, I would end up buying.

I couldn’t even turn it on.

To my surprise, it was equipped with a push-button start – a luxury I was unfamiliar with, considering my previous truck, as great as it was, only came with such new-fangled features such as ‘air conditioning’ and ‘power steering.’

Once I managed to start the thing, the test drive went only mildly better. Oh sure, the ride was smooth, the leather seats were as comfortable as the recliner in my basement, and it drove like a dream, but a few blocks into the trip, I realized the mirrors needed adjusting.

While keeping my eyes on the road, I did my best to fix the problem – tweak a knob here – nope – or push a button there. Oh, maybe this is the one. No dice.

I felt like I needed a NASA control room – one of those ones from Hollywood movies, filled with computer screens and teams of stern-looking engineers standing by – to help me out.

In the end, after a struggle, I pulled over and figured everything out, which in retrospect should have probably been Plan A.

When I got back into the dealership, I spent a long while sitting there, playing with everything from the touchscreen, to the sunroof controls to the air-conditioned seats, which has to be high on the list, perhaps just below Facebook, of utterly-unnecessary-but-still-awesome inventions of the past 20 years.

Only when I’d fully acclimatized myself to the basics – I assume my certificate of achievement is in the mail – did I get out and buy it.

A month in, there are still buttons whose purposes are unclear to me – one could be an ejection seat, for all I know.

Sure, I could read the manual, but that thing is like 150 pages – actual, printed pages – and who has time for that? Maybe Siri can read it to me.

I love the truck, but the fact that fully understanding it is still a work in progress got me thinking about technology, and how much of it is really necessary.

How badly do I need whatever mystery option is activated by the button next to my truck stereo? Do we really need wristwatches on which we can text? Are ‘smart’ fridges really adding that much to our lives?

I tend to think not.

But please, leave me my air-conditioned seats – those things are pretty great.

Nick Greenizan is a reporter at the Peace Arch News.

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