Friday, April 18, 2014

Karl the Curmudgeon Wants Jetpacks

"We were promised jetpacks," said Karl.

The band? I asked.

"What?" said Karl.

There's a Scottish band called We Were Promised Jetpacks.

"What are you talking about, Kid?"

What are you talking about?

"Jetpacks. Why the hell would I be talking about one of your stupid thrash rap bands?"

First of all, it's called thrashcore. Second, I don't listen to that. Third—

"Kid, you remember we've got a word limit, right?" Karl whispered.

Fine, I sighed. What ever do you mean by jetpacks, Karl?

"When I was a kid, we were told we could fly around on our own personal jetpacks. Our dinners would go from the fridge to the oven to our tables. And we would go to school in flying buses."

Are you thinking of 'The Jetsons' again?

"No, I'm not thinking about the stupid Jetsons again. I saw a study from the Pew Research Center about how people feel about technology in the future. Only one percent of the people said they would actually want a jetpack, but half of them would ride in a driverless car."

I'd love to ride in a driverless car, I said. Think about it: I could read, watch a movie, take a nap, or text like a hyper monkey.

"Me too. But it gets worse. Nine percent would travel in a time machine. More people would travel in a machine that could strand them 300 years in the past than those who would hover 30 feet in the air today."

Well, it would be a little frightening for people who are afraid of heights, I said. At least with a time machine, you could manage your own survival. If a jetpack breaks down while you're in the air, your chances for survival are about three seconds.

"Yeah, but if science fiction movies have taught us anything, it's that you might accidentally interfere with history or kill your own grandfather."

Why are we even talking about this? I asked. I thought we were going to watch the ballgame.

"I just started feeling my age, Kid." Karl sighed, half-heartedly plonking his beer on the bar. "I got an iPhone after my daughter kept nagging me about, and I got freaked out when an appointment appeared on my calendar by itself."

Which one?

"This one," said Karl. He asked the bartender for a mojito. Karl always drank mojitos when he felt old. It made him feel like Hemingway.

What, you mean our meeting popped up on your calendar without you doing anything?

"Yes. I knew Siri was smart, but I never told her to put it there. She must have seen our email exchange and did it herself. It's kind of creepy."

I suppressed a smile. So why does this worry you? I asked.

"Because it means the technology world has passed me by. I don't know how to use my new smartphone, and yet we're no closer to jetpacks."

Karl, I'm the reason the appointment appeared on your calendar.

"How did you do that? I got this thing last week, and you haven't been near it."

You use Google Calendar, right? I sent you an electronic invitation, which automatically pushed it to your calendar.

"I don't like that," said Karl. "I don't want my phone making those decisions for me."

It didn't. It put it there for you to decide. Your calendar tells you about suggested meetings, and if you decline them, they go away.

"Who the hell does my phone think it is to put them on my calendar in the first place? I'm a grown man who can take care of his own calendar, thank you very much. I don't need some stupid computer to do it for me."

Aww, Karl, do you miss your old flip phone?

"Don't patronize me, Kid. I'm more technical than you'll ever be."

How do you figure? I'm not afraid of my phone.

"No, but you're afraid of your car engine. When's the last time you changed your own oil?"

I hung my head. Never, I mumbled.

"Uh-huh," Karl said, folding his arms. "And even though I've showed you how three different times, you still take it to the garage to get it done."

Maybe if you emailed me the instructions — oh wait, I forgot.

Karl shot me a dirty look. "It's your turn to buy, Kid."

Fine, but how are we getting home?

"I'll call my cranky daughter to give us a ride," Karl said, reaching for his phone.

Oh man, now I really wish we had a driverless car.



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