This kid is smart. No, I don’t mean a little bit intelligent, I mean really, really smart. . . one of the brightest people I’ve ever worked with. He’s nearly got his masters in some sort of computer technology and he ended up doing the most of the teaching when he took undergraduate courses in computer programming. Used to be when I’d have a problem with my computer I’d have to haul it in to a fix-it shop and wait several days for the repair. Now I just call the smart kid and he diagnoses the problem over the phone and I’m up and running within minutes. I’m talking really, really smart.
We once traveled to Iowa together and when I pulled in for gas he consulted his phone and said, “No, go a half mile down the road where it’s cheaper.” When it came time to find a hotel for the night he got on his device and brought up the cheapest three-star room in the county then poked a few buttons and got us an even lower rate. Every time we’d stop to eat he’d check out the menu online before we entered the door and had the restaurants’ ratings in the palm of his hand. I don’t remember having to think an intelligent thought or make an important decision during the course of the entire trip.
The kid is a news junkie but every time I mention some world shaking event to him he’s already aware of it and has read the online commentaries. I long ago gave up trying to get ahead of him in any way. He’s just too darned smart.
Which is why I found a certain part of his behavior a puzzlement. We’d agreed to meet for dinner one night at Mulligan’s to make plans for an upcoming meeting. I said, “I’ll pick you up at five.”
He said, “Just give me a call when you’re getting close.”
I replied, “No need. I’ll just be there at five.”
He responded, “Just give me a call.”
“I can’t just pick you up at that time?”
“Sure. I’ll be ready. Just call me.”
Then it hit me. This young man who sat at the very top of the technological world, who could out-hustle the fastest hustlers on the Internet, who could leap tall programming codes in a single bound was totally incapable of scheduling. A point eight hours from that moment simply didn’t exist in his 2015 head. He lived solely in the world of the cell phone and advance planning was a trick he’d never had to master. No need to remember anything as long as you can look it up or have somebody give you a call. The future did not exist until it got here. This caused him no problem with his friends since that’s also they way they operated.
This disconcerting trait has unwelcome tentacles that spread far out into other aspects of his life and into the lives of all whose holy grail has become the plastic rectangle in their pockets. Used to be if three people asked you to do something on Thursday night you said okay to the first request and politely begged out of the next two. To this generation of IPhone slaves, the later you ask them to do something the more likely you are to get their attention and attendance. Since they no longer plan ahead, the late bird gets the worm.
I’m beginning to catch on how his brain operates and now when I need to meet with him I give him no advance notice. Instead, I call fifteen minutes before I arrive.
And all this might be tolerable or perhaps even humorous if it were a trait that was confined to the young who might some day grow out of the irritating habit, but this living-only-in-the-moment has crept upwards into my generation as well. More and more I find my friends unable to schedule anything in advance, relying solely upon the last word they received from their phone. Of course this is a source of huge angst for those of us who plan events that require attendance, deadlines that must be met and appointments kept. If you’re holding an even requiring the attendance of 20 people at 7 o’clock you’re forced to start making quick phone calls at 6:30.
Of course this may mean that before long the entire world will be wired this way and that those of us who make schedules and keep calendars will be pictured prominently in the Smithsonian Museum as relics of Western Civilization. The kid might be right. After all, he’s really, really smart.