Time has not been kind to the teachers of my youth.
Oh, I’m not calling them old or anything disparaging like that at all – I just mean technology finally caught up with their lessons.
“You’ll need to learn this because you’re not always going to have a calculator with you,” they’d say, or “you won’t always be able to look this up.”
Joke’s on you – I’ve got a calculator, a mirror, a meteorologist, a compass, the complete Encyclopedia Britannica and an endless stream of cat videos on me at all times thanks to my iPhone.
While that list may come off sounding like bragging rights for the current generation, I realized halfway through that I weep for the future.
But none of those tools did me much good when I touched down in Canada last week. Not only was I promised by my cellular carrier that I would have service (which I did not) – I was also vastly unprepared for the metric system, which, like acid wash jeans and hypercolor shirts, I’d put behind me long ago.
I’ve only been out of the country twice in the past 20 years and neither of those instances saw me on my own, so this venture was a bit like an episode of “An Idiot Abroad” as I bumbled about, trying to make my way through customs and then to the dreaded rental car.
I was pleased when they threw me the keys to a Ford and not a Donkervøørt or a Wartbürg, but that relief quickly went out the vehicle’s window when I cranked the SUV.
A voice greeted me in French – a language I never bothered to learn as I took four years of Latin in high school and two in college. Which is about as beneficial as taking a class in rotary phone repair in 2019.
I figured that would be easy enough to change to English … unfortunately the menu systems were all in French as well. But I prevail again, teachers of yore – I have Google translator on my phone.
But then came the things I couldn’t change.
I’ve been driving for two decades but the speedometer being in kph instead of mph was very disorienting. It wasn’t even inverted like ours are – it was just kph. The internal thermostat was set at 22 degrees Celsius. Was I going to burn up? Freeze? Who could say?
And once I got into English mode I thought I had everything figured out, that is until the GPS started telling me to “turn left in 4km.”
Granted, these are very basic things I should probably remember from school and have taken for granted over the years with the advancement of technology.
The biggest digital hurdle of my youth was teaching others how to program their VCR so it wouldn’t blink “12:00” at all times.
That joke is now as ancient as VCRs are.
Once upon a time, you could turn on a television and immediately have programming in front of you. Now you have to update software, wait for a signal or even have an internet connection just to be able to watch TV.
Cars used to crank right up and go. Now you have to clear out of menu options, wait for mirrors to auto-unfold and make sure you plugged them in long enough to be able to get around.
Technology makes a lot of things easier but it also makes a lot of things far more frustrating, at home and abroad.
Perhaps I’ll brush up on some lessons and use old-fashioned ingenuity the next time I’m abroad.
Or maybe I’ll just stay home.