Neil Offen: Too smart for my own good

Jan. 08, 2013 @ 07:11 PM

I always said I would never get any complicated, cutting-edge, intricate, high-flying new technological gimmick. And then I got a microwave.

Now I’ve become an even worse traitor to those of us who have preferred to continue to live in 1957 — I’ve gotten a smartphone, a phone so smart it only rarely will condescend to make phone calls. It’s much too busy doing lots of other things. I’m not exactly sure what those things are.

What I do know is that this is a phone that is much smarter than I am. It got into better schools. It had a higher GPA.

Which is unfortunate, since I’m the one who has to figure out how it works.

It came with a manual. The manual was brief. It said, “Hello. Welcome to your new smartphone!  Everybody else has figured out how to work it without a big, fat, printed manual, so we figure you can, too!”

The first thing I could figure out is that the smartphone required thumbs. I thought this was terrific, since I am, in fact, all thumbs. Turns out, it wants smart thumbs — thumbs that can efxtivelie type out wdso wirthaut mikng typhos. Thumbs that got into better schools.

The new smartphone also requires non-linear thinking. That’s the only kind of thinking I do, when I do any thinking, so I thought it would be easy to use my new smartphone to check my email, listen to my music, send texts, learn to ice skate, take photos, get directions, run for elective office, edit video, play the opening riff to “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and travel to New Jersey, all at the same time.

In fact, you can only do all of those things when you turn the phone on. Of course, the only way you can turn the phone on is to figure out where the turn-on button is. The only way you can figure out where the turn-on button is is to find the turn-on app.

 “Apps,” I was able to figure out, is short for appendixes, which are vestigial, that is, part of an ancient religion, and no longer necessary, so you can have them out if your insurance will cover the surgery.

My smartphone has lots of apps, including apps for finding out where the nearest vegetarian knitting stores are, apps that track how many calories you eat even if you, yourself, are not counting those that come from chocolate, apps that can alphabetize all your appointments with the Secretary of Homeland Security, apps that will allow you to go directly to another app that will organize all your apps, and apps that track how many times you can use the term “app” in a very long sentence.

Now that I’ve learned about apps, improved my linear thinking and honed my thumbs, I think I’m ready for my smartphone. I just have to figure out how to plug it into my microwave.

Neil Offen can be reached at noffen@heraldsun.com or by telephone at 919-419-6646.