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Thank Goodness for Smartphones?

Posted August 03, 2018 8:00 AM by BestInShow

Last week I headed south from Albany to attend my high school reunion. Both my starting point (Albany International Airport) and my destination (McGhee Tyson Airport in Blount County, Tennessee) serve comparatively small populations, so most of the nonstop flights connect with hub cities. When I was growing up in Knoxville, a standard joke was that if you had to go to Hades you had fly Delta to Atlanta and change planes. And any air journey that involves making connections leaves the traveler vulnerable to problems.

Making connections is bad enough without all of the add-on costs major airlines now pile on top of the basic fare. I’d already had to pay extra for two of my four seats since the airline conveniently lost the seats I chose when I booked and on two flights the only seats left came with a charge. No way was I going to pay to check a bag. So I stuffed five days’ worth of clothes and a laptop into a carry-on bag that always fits under the seat in front of me – yes, even on the small puddle jumper planes that ply the air routes between Podunk and Petticoat Junction, this bag never fails to conform – and set off with high hopes, low expectations and one heavy bag.

My smartphone turned out to be the most important item I brought with me. My smartphone and slick software – that worked correctly – spared my addled brain the effort of dealing with a mess.

After we circled Washington National Airport for a while, the pilot told us we were flying on to Norfolk. “I can’t see the runway here and we’re running out of jet fuel,” he explained. Heavy rain had pummeled the Washington area for several days; so much rain fell so fast last Wednesday night that the airport closed down. The cab driver who eventually delivered me to my hotel told me that he’d felt like he was driving in a car wash. Once the airport reopened, we flew back to Washington and joined the vast throng of unhappy travelers at Gate 35X.

Since my connecting flight was also delayed I figured I would be all right – until that flight was canceled. How was I supposed to rebook my flight and find a room for the night, worn out, and in the midst of chaos?

The airline sent me a text within 20 minutes or so after we luckless few deplaned, pointing out that my flight to Knoxville was canceled – yeah, I noticed – and offering me a choice of several flights. All I had to do was pick the one l liked. The non-stop flights for Thursday were full so I chose to fly to O’Hare and from there to Knoxville.

By performing the sloppiest possible search on my web browser I landed a nearby hotel room via a booking application. While I was looking at choices, the late hour prompted one hotel chain’s software to reduce the room rate for the night. Wow, a rebooked flight and a room to sleep in with a minimum of fuss, and my cabbie to Alexandria was a good guy.

After all of the furious thumb typing I started reflecting on all of the information the world has about me. The airline knew where I was throughout my trip. My phone knew where I was and helpfully offered hotels near the airport when I typed “hotel” in the search box. Wherever we landed airport maps popped up. All of this convenience but at what price to my privacy? I would feel better if I could be more selective about who knows where I am at any given instant. I had to sign up for and install an app I did not really want but I needed it to snag that hotel room – yet one more company that knows a little about me.

The upside is that I got a lot of exercise with an extra bunch of weight hanging off my shoulder. I’m sure I burned up all those calories in the reward I gave myself Thursday night.

Image credit: Gate 35X, Washington National Airport, courtesy


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Re: Thank Goodness for Smartphones?

08/04/2018 9:35 PM

" who knows where I am at any given moment "

You would need to leave your phone off for this to apply.


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Re: Thank Goodness for Smartphones?

08/06/2018 10:07 AM

I guess I am a bit different, or maybe just a different generation. I find the convenience quite rewarding. If any one thinks they are "private" in public, I suggest first a dictionary so you understand the words you are using.

We live in a surveillance world. There are cameras literally everywhere now in the developed world. (I am sorry that you were not aware that Montana is not part of the developed world.)
In my recent trip to Chicago, I was fascinated by the fact that I was trackable by thousands of video cameras. On traffic lights, convenience stores, bus stops, city busses, police cars, buildings, random gunshot detectors and those were just the public cameras, the private ones were even more numerous.

The illusion of privacy is just that, an illusion. Unless you live off the grid in the middle of a wilderness and have no contact with the outside world, you are more and more a public creature, easily trackable. Since I am not involved in illegal activities, and have spent a good portion of my life in the public eye, I am used to the concept that Someone is watching me. I just feel really sorry for them that they have nothing better to do than watch my mundane ass.

Knowing is the end result of learning, not believing.

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Re: Thank Goodness for Smartphones?

08/06/2018 8:36 PM

Rowlf the Dog Got It Right

You can't live with 'em, you can't live without 'em. There's something irresistible-ish about 'em. We grin and bear it 'cause the nights are long. I hope that something better comes along.

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