paulmck (paulmck) wrote,
paulmck
paulmck

The Old Man and His Smartphone, 2020 “See You in September” Episode

The continued COVID-19 situation continues to render my smartphone's location services less than useful, though a number of applications will still beg me to enable it, preferring to know my present location rather than consider my past habits. One in particular does have a “Don't ask me again” link, but it asks each time anyway. Given that I have only ever used one of that business's locations, you would think that it would not be all that hard to figure out which location I was going to be using next. But perhaps I am the only one who habitually disables location services.

Using the smartphone for breakfast-time Internet browsing has avoided almost all flat-battery incidents. One recent exception occurred while preparing for a hike. But I still have my old digital camera, so I plugged the smartphone into its charger and took my digital camera instead. I have previously commented on the excellent quality of my smartphone's cameras, but there is nothing quite like going back to the old digital camera (never mind my long-departed 35mm SLR) to drive that lesson firmly home.

I was recently asked to text a photo, and saw no obvious way to do this. There was some urgency, so I asked for an email address and emailed the photo instead. This did get the job done, but let's just say that it appears that asking for an email address is no longer a sign of youth, vigor, or with-it-ness. Thus chastened, I experimented in a calmer time, learning that the trick is to touch the greater-than icon to the left of the text-message-entry bar, which produces an option to select from your gallery and also to include a newly taken picture.

The appearance of Comet Neowise showcased my smartphone's ability to orient and to display the relevant star charts. Nevertheless, my wife expressed confidence in this approach only after seeing the large number of cars parked in the same area that my smartphone and I had selected. I hadn't intended to take a photo of the comet because the professionals a much better job, especially those who are willing to travel far away from city lights and low altitudes. But here was my smartphone and there was the comet, so why not? The resulting photo was quite unsatisfactory, with so much pixelated noise that the comet was just barely discernible.

It was some days later that I found the smartphone's night mode. This is quite impressive. In this mode, the smartphone can form low-light images almost as well as my eyes can, which is saying something. It is also extremely good with point sources of light.

One recent trend in clothing is pockets for smartphones. This trend prompted my stepfather to suggest that the smartphone is the pocket watch of the 21st century. This might well be, but I still wear a wristwatch.

My refusal to use my smartphone's location services does not mean that location services cannot get me in trouble. Far from it! One memorable incident took place on BPA Road in Forest Park. A group of hikers asked me to verify their smartphone's chosen route, which would have taken them past the end of Firelane 13 and eventually down a small cliff. I advised them to choose a different route.

But I had seen the little line that their smartphone had drawn, and a week or so later found myself unable to resist checking it out. Sure enough, when I peered through the shrubbery marking the end of Firelane 13, I saw an unassuming but very distinct trail. Of course I followed it. Isn't that what trails are for? Besides, maybe someone had found a way around the cliff I knew to be at the bottom of that route.

To make a long story short, no one had found a way around that cliff. Instead, the trail went straight down it. For all but about eight feet of the trail, it was possible to work my way down via convenient handholds in the form of ferns, bushes, and trees. My plan for that eight feet was to let gravity do the work, and to regain control through use of a sapling at the bottom of that stretch of the so-called trail. Fortunately for me, that sapling was looking out for this old man, but unfortunately this looking out took the form of ensuring that I had a subcutaneous hold on its bark. Thankfully, the remainder of the traverse down the cliff was reasonably uneventful.

Important safety tip: If you absolutely must use that trail, wear a pair of leather work gloves!
Tags: advice, confessions, reminiscences, smartphone
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