I must admit that I received my first “smart phone” with more than a little trepidation. It was going on a decade ago and I didn’t know my app from a hole in the ground. What was this thing that was a telephone and yet so much more? I carry it around with me, nevertheless, and I use it for the very occasional text, for a camera, and when it was younger, as a geocaching device. My sense of distrust came from being a user of personal computers for many years. There would be constant upgrades and renewals and each would cost you something. You don’t buy just a smart phone, you buy a liability. This Luddite screed arises from my attempts to get my boarding pass for my flight yesterday, with a special shout out to United Airlines.
Things change. I’m cool with that. Still, “checking in” for a flight has always meant your ticket was secure. When I went to check in yesterday, for the first time ever United Airlines allowed it only through your smart phone and only via its app. The app is free but my phone is of such an age that the app won’t work with it. I received the confirming text stating I wasn’t checked in. Wasn’t that exactly the same as the status at which I’d started? Why then did I spend half an hour of my Saturday trying to select a seat and telling it I am a vegetarian? (Vegans, it seems, are from another planet.) At least I didn’t have to specify a non-smoking row. I realized as I hung up that I was being shamed for not updating my phone.
You see, capitalism thrives on forcing the purchase of new things. If you wear clothes that are out of style (guilty as charged!) then you aren’t playing by the rules. If your phone is too big or too small (yes, size does matter), or if it flips open instead of being accidentally awakened when slipped out of your pocked, you’re a Luddite. If you can’t afford an update (which no longer fits in the pocket of a guy my size) you deserve to be shamed. You can’t check in. You have to stand in line and proclaim to all, “I didn’t upgrade.” I still use an iPhone 4S. It does what I need it to do. United Airlines doesn’t think so, however. Most of the apps have ceased to work. Now it is once again simply a phone, pretty much back where I’d started.