Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Past My Expiration Date

As much as I am loathe to admit it, I am definitely past my expiration date because I am finding it more and more difficult to simply function at the same speed and with the same understanding as everyone else. For example, I was able to master Starbucks – well not master perhaps but certainly able to cope with the numerous types of coffee but no just plain old regular coffee. I accepted this as a brilliant marketing ploy that allowed some very smart young entrepreneur to squeeze $3.00 extra for a fifty cent cup of coffee. I was even able to accept such things as Hazel Nut, Vanilla, and Blueberry coffee, but this week I realized that I was slipping far behind those in the know.

I went to order my breakfast of a High Fibre, Carrot laden, Coconut laced, Raisin filled Bran Muffin and Coffee at one of the low cost low service restaurant / kiosks in California, when the clerk/waitress stumped me with “Whaddya want-- Light. Medium, or Dark? I had no idea what she was asking and must have looked like some refugee from the dark hinterlands known as the “Flyovers” – which of course I was. In any event before, I could summon my wits and respond she seized the moment – obviously recognizing my confusion and saved the day by saying – “the Roast – the Roast – whatkinda roast ya want? I responded that I wanted coffee then realized she was referring to the coffee beans, but then I still had no idea about how to respond, because I have no idea regarding how I prefer my beans roasted. Usually I just open a can of coffee and proceed from there, but now I realize that I am not just old fashioned, I am downright primal and totally devoid of any of the refinements currently associated with being a member of the sophisticated class. So I bowed my head and mumbled – medium – obviously the pathway selected by the indecisive and those unable to discern the difference between roasts or coffee’s.

But this isn’t the first time that I have been totally stumped in the decision department. Have you tried to buy orange juice recently? When I was a kid I simply produced my nickel for the milk monitor and he / she gave me my bottle of orange juice. Later as an adult I would buy containers of orange juice but then I had to decide between “from concentrate” or --- well they never said – it was either from concentrate or it was that same old stuff you used to buy. But recently I went to buy orange juice and was confronted with no pulp, some pulp, lots of pulp, with Calcium, Heart Healthy, and I lost track at that point but fortunately there was a young man there stocking the orange juice, so I asked him where the regular orange juice was. He stared at me for a moment in wide-eyed wonder – laughed hysterically and went back to his duties. Presumably regular orange juice like regular coffee no longer exists.

Up to this point my experiences could be written off to my general lack of involvement in contemporary shopping. After all I don’t live in the environs of Starbucks and I rarely shop for anything unless you call a drive-through meal – shopping. But the end of my innocence came with the new microwave. Having been involved in computers and computer technology since there were such things as computers, I regard myself as reasonably knowledgeable in things technical. Still I knew the day would come when machines would know more than me and out new microwave definitely falls into this category. I’m accustomed to machines that are essentially binary – they are either “on” or they are “off”. Of course with the new technology we added things to them like clocks. So then we had machines that were either on or off and blinked 12:00, in sort of a Zen like reminder that life is passing you by while you read the instructions on how to set the time.

But I digress – the new microwave came with several buttons that seem to have meaning to the machine but are confusing to me. For example – there is a “breakfast” button. Now I know what breakfast means, it is a meal that I eat – usually in the morning but what does “breakfast” mean to the microwave? Suppose it is noon, do I push the “lunch” button if I am having a frozen waffle or do I push the “breakfast” button. What about Bagel’s? Is a Bagel a breakfast button or a lunch button? What happens if I push the wrong button? Will the machine not work or perhaps flash some weird message like “Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, restart and order shall return”. Or perhaps “Three things are certain Death, Taxes, and Failure to push the right button. Guess which has occurred.”

So there it is – the age of the intelligent machine has arrived. We are surrounded by robots and have been for some time. After all they turn on my lights, open my garage door, turn on the coffee pot, turn things off but gradually they are gaining the upper hand. They now decide WHEN things should be turned off – even if I don’t want them turned off and now we have a machine that requires interaction before operation. There is no longer any doubt in my mind – I am definitely past my expiration date.

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