Scott Free

Scott Peterson

Do you ever miss getting into arguments that you can’t win?

Now we all have cell phones that have all the answers to our questions. It’s turned us into mental jellyfish to such a point that we can even ask our smart phone to tell us how dumb we are because our brain has atrophied since it was invented.

Perhaps this explains why we can’t even agree on what truth is anymore. Because truth is so dull, the only thing worth hotly debating are lies and fabrications. Everything else has been decided.

Hours and hours were once spent at the bars and other gathering places, trying to figure out who played third base for the Yankees in the 1963 World Series, what was Frank Sinatra’s best selling song and who was the fifth man to walk on the moon? So much beer was consumed and spilled arguing these finer points. And now anybody can find that out with a few taps on the slabs in our pockets.

When I was a kid, growing up in Wauwatosa, my parents used to argue about the location of stores, homes or schools in their past homes in Waukesha or Watertown or other locations. When my father would get fed up, he would throw up his hands in frustration, after my mom refused to agree, and proclaim decidedly, “OK, let’s get in the car!” He wanted to drive there to prove her wrong, or, perhaps, to call the bluff, or reinforce his own bluff.

As kids, we were up for the adventure. We wanted to go into the car, and visit my parents’ time machine. But those days are gone. Even if my parents were alive and we could do it all again, there would be no adventure, but just a bunch of clicking.

Nancy and I watch a lot of British shows on television and we are always having terms thrown at us like “punting,” Celsius temperature conversions and sultanas. We spend half our time watching these shows with the closed captions turned on and then using our phones to translate British terms and street slang.

Once upon a time, you had to make a trip to the library to settle these quarrels. You had to actually do something called research. Sure, most of us never bothered, but that was part of the game. It’s like Scrabble. If you don’t challenge the word that looks contrived, your opponent will walk all over you.

No wonder so many car dealers have given up wheeling and dealing, but just sell on a flat price. You can always find a better deal somewhere else without really trying at all.

Our phones have made us so lazy, it’s like that episode of “Star Trek” where two disembodied brains are declaring war on each other. We can just sit on our couches like Star Wars’ Jabba the Hut and do all of our shopping and have food sent to us. We don’t even have to, as the Yellow Pages (remember those?) used to suggest, “Let our fingers do the walking.” That’s just too much like work. We can just sit on the couch, watch movies and have someone feed us until we get so massive, we have to use telehealth to summon help. We don’t even have to get off the couch to turn up the themostat. We can just shout and Google will do our bidding.

Have you ever noticed how many programs will tell you what the weather is like outside? Have we gotten so lazy that we can’t walk to the window to look? What is that giant yellow ball in the sky? It kind of resembles the replica icon I see on my weather app.

I never have to set foot in a bank, bookstore, theater, concert hall or museum. So where is the fun in that?

Is it possible that our phones have outsmarted us and we’d be a lot better off if we added some more tall tales to our repertoire? Would we all be a little better off with some unqualified mystery in our lives? Can we be happier people with a lot less certainty about our uncertainties?

If your phones were really smart, and we asked, “Mirror, mirror in our hand, who’s the smartest in the land?” they would say “recalculating” or some other cryptic answer just to keep us guessing, so we would realize they had the upper hand. But, I suppose that would be the moment when they gave it all away, that proves our phones will actually have won!

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