Where are The Good Old Days

Gone are the days when you would walk into a bank to hear a friendly human ask you, "How much do you wish to withdraw today, Mr Jenkins?" and be farewelled with a gift of a money box. Blessed were the days when you did not have to have a doctorate in electronics to configure and use the myriad of devices ostensibly designed to make one's life easier. There should be a caveat with every purchase warning of the stress and mental fatigue inherent in any attempt to try to come to terms with the fine art of programming remote controls, DVD players and TV sets. Yes, I yearn for the proverbial good old days, at least as far as technology is concerned. Today was one of those days. Losing my battle of indigestion with a pizza dinner the previous night, I was unable to sleep. Not wishing to interrupt the orchestral dulcet tones my wife's snoring produced, I quietly got up and, in the darkness, tiptoed barefoot into the kitchen to seek a cure for my overindulgence. I realised, just as I took my first bite of the leftover pizza, that I did not turn off the alarm that senses burglar activity in this part of the house. The alarm is silenced by entering a four digit code via the alphanumeric touchpad before the 40 second amnesty period elapses. You might ask, as I often do of my wife, what riches await a potential thief in our kitchen? Perhaps my pizza? I quickly shuffled to the touchpad and managed within a few seconds to input PEPA -the name of our dog. A flashing red light tauntingly indicated a still active alarm. Damn! Thirty seconds! I tried SALO, our cat. No luck. "What is the code?" I cursed, and tried to think of the names of other domesticated animals residing in our home. Ten seconds! Do I wake the wife? Too late. In desperation, I managed to enter STO and my index finger was on its downward journey to P when a loud siren suddenly blared, announcing the beginning of an eventful day.

"The password is ABCD," my wife reminded me at breakfast. "Don't you remember? You wanted something easy?" she added, rather curtly I thought.

"When was it changed?" I asked innocently.

"Yesterday, when you left for the office. I sent you an email about it? Didn't you get it?" she asked in her best interrogative style.

"Our server was being upgraded. Security and all that," I lied.

If the truth be known, more than a week ago - in a fit of paranoia and on advice from the systems administrator- I changed my various passwords but promptly forgot which password went with each logon request. Hence, without logon privileges, I have not had access to my email accounts nor have I been privy to a range of obligatory Web based services my job entailed.

"Well then," my better half continued, "I also sent a text message to your cell phone. Did you read it?"

"Well, I was just about to read it when the battery went flat. I didn't have the charger with me." I wondered if I sounded sufficiently convincing.

"I see," she said, reaching forward and gently patting my 'chrome dome'. "You sure had a bad hair day, didn't you?"

"I think I'll use my car to drive to work, today," I said, switching the topic of conversation. As I drove, I reflected. Technologically, am I a neophyte? After all, I don't know how to use the GPS in my car, relying instead on a well thumbed street directory. In fact, virtually all the functions of my expensive car are still in the DEFAULT setting; not by choice but because I fear any tampering on my part will see my wife a widow sooner than I would wish it. Thus I have to strain to reach the brake pedal with my foot, I freeze and suffocate through the seasons and endure the music of a radio station I do not like. I parked the car under a shady tree and walked along the main street towards my office. I was surrounded by familiar scenes. Countless people were using cell phones as they walked. Were they all lost? Did they require directions from some disembodied voice? Yet others were listening to music from semi-concealed devices and of course there was the inevitable queue of people waiting to use the "serve yourself" electronic banking facilities.

"I am a pariah, cast out from this community of the technological savvy," I thought to myself. Still deep in thought I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turned to face a policeman.

"Sir, are you the owner of the vehicle with registration number EDW573?" he asked officially.

"I, er, don't know," I informed him with all honesty.

"What do you mean? What is your car's registration number, sir?" he asked, more officially.

"I'm not sure, Officer. You see, I don't usually drive this car. What is the problem?" I queried.

"You are illegally parked. That section of the road is reserved for emergency vehicles and for vehicles displaying an exemption permit," he informed me.

"Sorry, I am on my way to an important meeting. I forgot to put this on the dashboard," I explained.

Constable Warren raised his eyebrows as I produced the official tag my employer had issued me. The effect was immediate recognition.

"Excuse me, sir," Officer Warren stated apologetically. "I escorted your limousine once, last October, during the Royal Visit," he exclaimed almost obsequiously.

"Thank you for your services on that occasion," I replied.

Shortly afterward I entered the corridors of 10 Downing Street. As I sat next to the Prime Minister I reflected that I must try harder. After all, as the Minister for Science and Technology I really should set a better example.

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