Somewhere around here, napping on my hard drive and in the cloud, is the word “flinder.” It’s a word I made up at a dinner with friends, all about my age, during a conversation about technology. It was just a combination of syllables I slapped together to stand for some new thing that we wouldn’t do, wouldn’t understand, wouldn’t relate to, wouldn’t be interested in. The new Facebook or Twitter, in other words.
Snapchat is a flinder, I think, at least for me, although that might not quite work. I don’t pay attention to Reddit, either. You can’t do everything, and nothing’s for everybody. I’m still in the loop, if a little skeptical these days.
Five years ago, I was skeptical about smart phones. Why would I pay an extra $30 a month so I could browse the webs from my phone? I could actually do that anyway, if I wanted to, although it was awkward and would be expensive if I did too much. I just couldn’t find a reason.
I found one eventually, or at least a rationale that I could live with, and I’ve never looked back. Or up, sometimes. I try to be responsible.
One of my reasons happened in the late spring of 2011, when batteries died in both my digital camera and my video camera at the same time, which was not a convenient time. There was also the annoyance of wanting to listen, sometimes, to music while I walked, but keeping my phone in a pocket just in case. Which, should it ring, might be impossible to hear give that I’m listening to music, and so on.
I consolidated technology, in other words. That’s what the iPhone was, and the ones that followed, and I took full advantage. It was a phone, both kinds of cameras, an MP3 player, and a Swiss Army knife without the blades. It could do a lot of stuff.
And as we moved through the iterations (I’m on my third generation of iPhone, and I may snag the fourth soon), more bells and whistles were added and it became a fitness tool, something I loved. It tracked my walks via GPS and kept records of miles and steps and theoretical calories burned.
But that was something I got for myself, working through the pros and cons, and overall happy with the way things turned out, even if life has become something of an obstacle course, avoiding teenagers walking directly toward me with their eyes on their screens.
This is my technology baseline, then. If there’s a way to combine several things into one thing, I’m interested. If it’s just a different and maybe easier way to do something, I’m less interested. My Amazon Echo, a Christmas gift last year from my son, is useful for playing music and serving as a nice Bluetooth speaker for my computer, but neither of those was necessary, thus making it sort of the perfect gift: I’d never buy one for myself, but I have some fun with it. It hasn’t changed my life in the least, but I can walk in the room and say, “Alexa, play some James Taylor” and that’s kind of cool, so win-win.
Which brings us to 2016.
I should mention that last week, I somehow lost my wedding ring. Sometimes it gets loose, a good sign that I weigh less than I should, but that hasn’t been the case. It somehow got caught on something and tugged off without me noticing. I keep thinking it’ll eventually show up, but since it was my second wedding band, just a nice pair that we bought in Santa Fe in 2009, I put on the original from 1983 and I’m all ringed up again.
I only mention it because my wedding band is symbolic, which is why I wear it. Otherwise, I’m not a jewelry person. I don’t like things around my neck, can’t think of even a stupid reason to get anything pierced, and I live in a world of clocks so I’ll skip the watch, thank you.
Yet now I have this thing on my wrist. It tells the time, but oh so much more, and I’m sort of on the fence about it.
My daughter and her husband gave me a FitBit for Christmas, something that always struck me as superfluous, although maybe not as much as the Echo. My phone doesn’t track my heart rate, for one thing, and I guess that’s an important thing to know, or it could be. So far, my heart hasn’t stopped beating according to this thing. I’m going to assume it’s correct.
I’m also going to assume that it’s correct when it tells me my resting heart rate is 56, which seems pretty good for a guy whose exercise has been spotty for a few months now. I went out yesterday, in fact, and walked about four miles, nothing too strenuous, and apparently averaged 113 beats per minute. Hardly aerobic, although there was some of that, and twice my resting rate? It might be OK. Doesn’t matter. I think I’m fine.
Again, it’s not something I would have bought for myself, so nice gifting strategy. It’s fun, I’m enjoying it, I don’t mind wearing it, and it actually gives me information I didn’t know (I apparently sleep pretty soundly).
But I’ve been down this road before. Last October I left my phone in the car when my wife dropped me at the airport, and I went through security twice just so I could run back outside and meet her to pick it up. That’s my situation with the phone. I’ve accepted it. I’m not entirely comfortable, but accepting.
And now I can see a situation in which I have no idea what my heart rate is, because somehow I’ve lost my FitBit. This slope is awfully slippery, and I have a feeling I’ve already started downhill.
Note: I wrote the above yesterday morning, December 27. After I finished and began to post, I saw the news about Carrie Fisher. As ridiculous as it sounds, it felt disrespectful to be joking about health and tracking devices on the day somebody famous died following a cardiac event. Somebody about my age; two years older, my brother’s age, younger than my wife by a year. My wife, who had her own cardiac event six years ago.
And the news was and is just sad. It feels odd to me the way we throw around the word authentic these days; everyone’s authentic, but I guess I get it. Celebrity and all. So that’s part of the sadness, I think; she seemed to be a real person, with real problems and a nice attitude about all of them.
On the other hand, it’s not like we needed a reminder after the past year, but life is uncertain except for the last part. There are worse things than taking health a little too seriously. I’ve never been too concerned about heart disease, just because I have no warning signals and a lot of signals that say, nope. You will die some other way. Including the image below, which I don’t really understand but I’ll take. Rest in peace, Carrie Fisher.