That string of ten digits becomes your personal identity. It’s conveyed by a pocket-sized device that’s so expensive you have to pay for it in installments. And it’s not a one-time expense. For a monthly fee that would’ve sent our parents calling on AT&T we carry a compact computer with us at all times and call it a phone because it responds to those ten digits. The trend is to replace them every two or three years as more and more features become available, many of which, one suspects, are never used. So, with a notice from our carrier that the card in one of our devices would no longer work at the end of this year, having reached the end of its life, we found ourselves in one of the countless phone stores around the country.
I mused as we waited—buying a replacement phone took two hours out of a Saturday, and that didn’t count driving time—at how complicated life has become. One of our cars, purchased in 2003, also needs replacing. My wife and I have to coordinate a day off work to buy one. It pretty much took a whole day the last time we bought a car. It’s complicated. Credit checks, titles, registration, insurance. And oh so much money. You can’t, however, live without a car. Not if you don’t reside in a major city. You need to get to the grocery store, to doctor’s appointments, the hardware store—and the telephone store. Many of these places exist in their own carefully zoned commercial habitats and since they have the necessities of life, you need to go to them. Meanwhile, the internet offers to send them to you.
Ads now tell me you can buy your car online and some smiling stranger will drop it off right at your house. It’s just that easy! What they don’t say is all the work that must, I’m assuming, be done in advance. The insurance, the financing, title transfer, trade in, let alone nothing of the test drive. Now you have to figure all that out in advance. Let’s face it—nothing is easy. If you’re reading this you’re doing it on a highly sophisticated device that may have cost you quite a bit of money. If it’s a phone it bears your personal ten digits that can be used to reach you at all times and in all places and that, in fact, knows where you are at all times. Even if you’re out for a virtual test drive.