Sunday, April 12, 2015


Although the younger generation seems to find it amazing (“wow, you mean someone your age has Facebook???”), I have managed to accustom myself to the modern world and even enjoy it. I do enjoy using that excellent tool, the computer (yes, I did grow up using a manual typewriter – and it worked pretty well too), and have managed to learn to do most of the necessary things to reboot, upload and download, add new programs, do research, and watch YouTube.  I have actually become addicted to the technology and can’t imagine what I would do without it.

A few months ago I got a new cell phone, a Smart Phone.  Since for me, a telephone has one primary purpose, and that is for making phone calls (I can accept SMS messages as legitimate also), I have for years had the simplest model, that actually only could make and receive phone calls. But finally, it started to gasp its last, and when I went to the store to buy a new battery, I was told that they had stopped making those batteries years ago…No choice but to buy a new phone.

So I got a Smart Phone, not one of the super models that does everything including making the morning coffee, but a more moderate one, but still with plenty of functions.  I could now get my emails on the phone, see the internet, take, get and send photos and videos, and unlimited other activities, most of which were totally unknown to me.  But I began to get used to this clever convenience, and began to add a few “apps”.  I added WhatsApp, which I knew of only as something that school kids used, but which turned out to have some use, and I added a GPS program Waze.

I have a GPS for my car, but it is an antique, and most of the roads that have been built in the last ten years are totally unrecognized by it. So having an up-to-date GPS in my phone was a very attractive idea.  My navigation up to now had been looking up the location on an internet map and then printing out the map with directions on how to get there.  Waze turned out to be a very positive program – it talked to me in a nice voice that was easy to understand, it knew where everything was, how long it would take to get there, and if there were traffic jams en route.  This was fun!

So last week I was due to give a lecture in Tel Aviv.  I had been there before a few times, and remembered reasonably well where the location was, but wasn’t quite sure about the correct exit from the highway and which turns to make in Tel Aviv to get there.  But now I had my Smart Phone and Waze!  Waze recognized the venue by name, I didn’t have to put in a street address, so I put the name in, Waze found a route, and we were ready to go.  The distance was between 45 minutes and an hour drive from my place, depending on the traffic.

I set off well in time – I always like to be on time, and usually am early.  I drove along happily, thinking about my lecture, with Waze making little comments – not much to say, I was driving on the highway.

And as we entered Tel Aviv, with three exits clustered within a few kilometers of each other, in the exact area where I was not sure of which turn to take, my Smart Phone gives me the message “No SIM card found”, and everything stops working – no GPS, no telephone or internet connection, nothing except the main screen with the (now useless) icons.

What????? Of course there is a SIM card!!!! I haven’t touched anything!!! I wouldn’t know how to remove the SIM card if my life depended on it!!!

This, of course, happened while I was driving in heavy traffic and needed to make a fast decision about my exit!!!

The phone suggested that I turn it off and on again. This was a very difficult procedure to accomplish while I was driving, and on the highway there is nowhere to stop on the side to work out technical phone problems.  But I managed, it came on again, and told me, “No SIM card found!!!!!!”

Now what?  I had taken an exit and was driving around a neighborhood I didn’t recognize at all, trying to find a place whose address I didn’t know. No GPS, no telephone – I couldn’t call to ask where I was and how to get there, or even to warn them that I was late.  I tried turning on my computer in the hopes that I could get on to the internet and find the address or a map – but of course, there was no access to the internet unless I had a password for the multiple networks out there that were all password protected.

I don’t think I have ever felt so totally helpless – and stupid!!! If I hadn’t had such a complacent trust in technology, I would have had a paper map with me with the address!

I stopped at a little convenience store to ask if they had a phone. No. But the sole customer, a man who obviously felt sorry for my clear distress, allowed me to use his cellphone.  I thought that if he had Waze, I could find my venue, see the address, and then get instructions to get there.  But no, he did not have Waze.  I tried to call the organizers, and got only voice mail, and could only leave a message that I was lost and was still trying to get there.  By now, I was already about 20 minutes late.

I drove around and around, looking for something familiar. I knew I was in the correct general area, but the area is a maze of little streets, and I didn’t even remember the name of the street I was looking for. I was in despair!

And then I had an idea.  There was a taxi stand ahead of me, with about five or six taxis waiting for fares.  I stopped, approached one of the drivers, tried to explain my situation, and asked if he had Waze – taxi drivers certainly must have a GPS! Apparently my hysterical appearance did not encourage his feelings of cooperation – no!  After trying a few more taxi drivers who were not cooperative, I finally found one who seemed to be sympathetic. I was able to persuade him to let me use the Waze on his phone to look up the venue, and then to find what the actual street address was.  It was in fact only a few minutes away.

The driver gave me instructions on how to get there, but when I got back in my car, I took out my old antique GPS, put in the address, and got instructions – it took me about five minutes to get there.

As I walked into the lecture room, almost an hour late, all the students were sitting and waiting with the organizer – they had gotten my message, but of course there was no way for them to get in touch with me either.

Of course, at the end of the lecture, when I tried turning my Smart Phone off and on, it immediately returned to full function.

I will continue to travel with paper maps, and never again will I leave the house without knowing the exact address of my destination.

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