During recent travels I did something that I probably haven’t done in 20 years – make a collect call on a pay phone. I didn’t even know they had many pay phones around anymore, much less the collect call service. This was one of those rare instances when I regretted not being more technologically savvy, owning or knowing how to use at least one iThing.
Travelling from Beijing to the U.S. with a long layover in Detroit, I found myself unable to connect with my world. First, I simply wanted to reactivate the U.S. SIM card for my mobile phone that was just purchased the summer before. Turns out that T-Mobile somehow re-allocated my number, even though it is specifically assigned to my SIM card and my phone (they did a test-call and someone else answered!). Solution? Start over and buy a new one with a new pre-paid package (i.e., spend more money with them). Annoyed, but not deterred, I set off to buy one.
Of the two stores in the entire airport that sold such packages, neither one had them in stock, at least not for non-iPhones. Now not able to use my mobile phone, I reverted to finding a pay phone so I could let my mother know I was in the same country…not an easy task. The one and only pre-paid calling card station I found was out of order, so I finally just called her collect and we got to talk. This after walking from Terminal A to Terminal B to Terminal C.
Another connection snafu was getting online. The Sky Club where I’m able to enjoy extra comforts during a long layover is generally nice, but connecting to the internet was simply not going to happen. Even after talking to a tech rep on the phone for about 20 minutes, he could not solve my problem and I remained unconnected.
We are so wired for instant communication these days that it’s almost immobilizing to not have it. And I’m not even a real techno-person! So, rather than “connecting” and losing myself in all the information I normally have, I sat down to use the word processor instead. But what caught my eye was everyone around me, having conversations with ear pieces, headsets, phones, computers — you name it. It was almost comical and yet somewhat sad to see everyone so very busy all the time. My being unconnected for a short period of time magnified our desire – our need – for the access of communication anytime, anyplace. And I had to wonder, is this a good thing?