Because the apocalypse stubbornly failed to arrive Saturday evening, I had to report for training first thing Monday morning. It wasn't just me; all employees were to be trained to use the new content management system. The new system promised to make the old system look like something discovered in a Dead Sea cave.
Reluctantly, I reported for duty. I say reluctantly, because in bygone days a man of my years was not expected to learn new things. He was believed to know everything there is to know about his job. He was seen as the embodiment of institutional wisdom. Young apprentices squatted eagerly at his feet in hopes of hearing his sage advice and learning the secrets of the trade. The idea of some hotshot college boy coming in and teaching the old dog a new trick was unthinkable.
But today's employers know the score. Anyone over 45 is considered an ancient ruin, at least when it comes to new technology. Employers know we are less amiable to acquiring technical skills, and, like an old dog, we just want to curl up on a rug and be left alone, which is what you'll do if you know what's good for you.
A few years ago, I was given the gift of an iPod. For a brief moment I was intrigued. However, being a typical guy, I naturally refused to read the instruction, so I never did learn to operate the device correctly. To this day it remains buried in my desk drawer under some old utility bills, a bottle of Jim Beam and my revolver. Who needs it? I am of the generation that still listens to record albums in their entirety, like music was meant to be listened to. I don't have the time or the inclination to spend hours downloading individual songs from iTunes. What am I, in high school?
As for the iPad, I'm still trying to figure out what that is, and whether I need one. Meanwhile my coworkers seem glued to their iPhones and can't imagine how they got by without one, as if it were a pacemaker or an oxygen tank.
Increasingly, I see evidence of what us techno-cynics have been hinting since the advent of the cell phone: that all this new technology is laying waste to the quality of our lives. Or so says Ad Age:
When we asked how their lives had changed over the past decade, "infused with technology" was the most widely cited answer. But equally telling are the phrases coming next on the list -- "more complicated," "more stressful" and "focused on finding ways to do more with less." In contrast, fewer than half said their lives had become "more fun" or "easier."
Apparently, otherwise rational adults believe the only way to make our lives "more fun" and "easier" is to carry around 24/7 a portable computer/telephone/mailbox/DVD player/Wii/television set. And we are surprised that life has become more complicated and stressful.
WHEN I TOOK MY first job in newspapers, I was given a Smith Corona electric typewriter (pretty fancy for its day), a stack of paper and a (touch tone) telephone, and told to get to work. Not only did we manage to put out a paper every day, but the entire industry had never been healthier.
The paper employed 22 people. A year later, Macintosh computers were introduced into the newsroom. Today, the paper is hemorrhaging money and the staff has dwindled to a skeleton crew of six.
I tried desperately to stay abreast of the latest technology. I welcomed the arrival of the PC, the Internet, the new software programs that were supposed to make work easier and workers more efficient.
But somewhere along the information superhighway I got passed by.
Before long bloggers were talking about stuff that sounded completely foreign to me. It was like I'd missed a year of school. Every week some techie was hyping an important new gadget or upgrade, but for all I grasped he may as well have been singing in Mandarin Chinese.
I've gone about as far as I am willing to go with new technology. In a few years I will be a half century old. There comes a time when even the most die-hard Popular Science subscriber has to say: enough is enough.
If I'm on anybody's gift list, do me a special favor and spare me the latest gizmo. A good old-fashioned book will do nicely.
By the way, anybody want to buy a barely used iPod?