I’m not as technologically averse as all my friends and family like to joke. In fact, I pioneered the switch to Mac computers in our household in 2003, and managed to learn the new operating system pretty much on my own. Digital cameras? I was all over them once the images reached publishable resolution.
However, I will admit to a fierce, abiding loathing for the telephone, or, to be specific, talking on the telephone. For me it’s always been a tool for dispensing or receiving important information as quickly as possible, not for leisurely chats. There are few phone conversations I can’t get through using artful combinations of “Yes,” and “No,” occasionally spiced with “Sure,” or “Probably not,” including calls home to my wife after two weeks incommunicado in Zambia. Any interchange that goes over 30 seconds and my fingers start tapping, my pupils dilate, and a high-pitched keening sound becomes noticeable to the person on the other end. The torture scene in Zero Dark Thirty? Calls from my mother were worse.
And that’s why—until recently—a $19 flip-phone was all the phone I needed. I’d point over the counter at the Verizon store and ask, “Can that one in the back make calls?” If the answer was, “Well, sure, but . . .”—sold.
Then telephones started doing more than annoying me, because they started doing more than ringing. First they added GPS—astonishing enough—but then came apps and Google Maps, and suddenly on road trips Roseann could tap her iPhone and find the best coffee or café in any town on our route in seconds. No more fishing down side streets, gambling on local diners, or settling for anodyne chains. The facility made road trips far more enjoyable, and probably saved enough time to add a hundred miles to the distance we could cover in a day.
There was more, such as the level and tilt app that allowed us to precisely measure the angles of slip faces on dunes in Egypt’s sand seas. And the utterly magic Star Walk, which recently informed us that the bright satellite passing over our camp in the desert at dusk was in fact the International Space Station. And the National Geographic North American Bird Guide, which includes a complete audio section on calls and songs.
So . . . sigh . . . after losing my most recent throwaway phone somewhere in Africa, I became the owner of an iPhone 5—and, not ten minutes after regaining normal heart rhythm from sticker shock, learned about accessories. I remember when the only accessory for a phone was the rubber banana-shaped thing you stuck to the handset so you could hold it with your shoulder. Not anymore.
First addition was a Lifeproof case. And a fine addition it was, considering that for the last decade I’ve been used to treating my $19 phone like . . . a $19 phone. No need to walk clear across the room to put it on my desk—a simple toss gets it there quicker. Not a good idea with a zillion-dollar miniature computer/phone/camera/GPS thing, but old habits die hard. So the shock-resistant, waterproof Lifeproof case gives me peace of mind. Furthermore, it vastly improves my grip on the phone, which when nude had an unsettling orange-seed squirtiness about it, like it could fly out of my grasp on its own. It necessitates a slightly firmer tap to use the touch-screen, but not much, and since I do not text, facile typing is unnecessary. I note that Roseann, who frequently answers business emails on her iPhone while I’m driving, doesn’t seem to have a problem.
Most recently we received one of Lifeproof’s suction-cup vehicle mounts. It can attach to the windshield, but the kit includes a disk with adhesive backing you can stick elsewhere on the dash if you don’t want the unit in your line of sight of the road. We attached the disk to the passenger side of the center console, clipped in the phone, and left for a weekend trip along southern Arizona’s Camino del Diablo, which sports miles and miles of punishing washboard (or corrugations as the rest of the world knows them), especially along the Christmas Pass exit road to I-8. The iPhone on its mount remained astoundingly vibration-free throughout the trip, and Roseann had no trouble tapping in navigation commands without the need to support the unit from behind. It’s a solid system, and well worth its $40. Of course it’s sized to take the iPhone only if it’s inside a Lifeproof case, and we’d need another model for Roseann’s slightly smaller iPhone 4S (it fits but not as securely). But I suspect if they made it one-size-fits-all the rigidity would suffer, so I won’t complain.
I recall how thrilled I was with our old Garmin 276 GPS and its bulky, jiggly windshield suction mount. Just five years later we have a device that does ten times more at a fifth the weight, and a mount that renders it as steady and accessible as if it were another dashboard gauge.
Isn’t technology wonderful?