Consider yourself notified


Last updated 6/27/2018 at Noon

I’m bombarded these days, as you are, I suspect. As we enter the fourth decade of the future, which I’m arbitrarily beginning in the late 1990s, when Americans crested the 30 percent mark of those with internet access, it seems clear that modern technology has evolved from a open-source, Wild West cyberspace of ideas and dirty pictures into a deliberate content-delivery system, and the content is predictable.

I have seen the future, then. It wants to send me notifications.

I can put it into perspective. A person in 1980 goes to a mall and buys a blender. Upon arriving home, after unboxing the appliance, anticipating an evening of strawberry daiquiris, the doorbell rings. A man stands on the front porch with a clipboard.

“Good afternoon, sir or madam,” he says, reading from the clipboard. “We hope you’re enjoying your new purchase of a Galaxy 500 blender.”

Our 1980 person will be slightly confused, since nothing has actually been blended yet, but please go on.

“We wanted to let you know we’re here to answer any questions you might have about the Galaxy 500,” he continues. “We’d also appreciate it if you’d consider writing a short review of this product.”

And then this guy rings your doorbell two more times that day, and a few more times for the rest of the week. Those daiquiris never tasted as good as you imagined.

Most of you know what I’m talking about, I think. And if you’re a smartphone user, you know more. You know that your phone dings and buzzes and beeps all day long with notifications. That package is going to be delivered this afternoon. Something just happened in Yemen. Rain is due in about 15 minutes.

And those are just the useful ones. Someone called RainbowGirl31 just liked my photo on Instagram. I don’t know RainbowGirl31, although I suspect she’s marketing jewelry. At any rate, I don’t think she really liked my picture, and I don’t care anyway. My phone thinks otherwise.

I’ve been working in recent weeks to eliminate a lot of these, which takes some tweaking but is worth it, trust me. No Rainbow Girls were harmed.

Again, some of these can be handy. We keep a family calendar, and changes and additions are immediately zapped out to everyone, little digital tones alerting us to new events. My wife has the busiest schedule, so it’s mostly her updates that I see on a regular basis.

service changes

I got one the other day. A little calendar notification, late one afternoon, right there on my phone. “Chuck’s birthday party at the Andersons,” set for next month when, in fact, it will be my birthday.

This was news to me. I didn’t agree to this party, or even know what I thought about the idea. It makes me wonder if surprise parties are a lot harder to pull off these days.

It turned out not to be a surprise, which sounds obvious but I’m talking about intent. And for the record: My wife has never thrown me a birthday party, nor would such a thing occur to her. You might think this puts my wife in a bad light. Don’t make me come over there.

My wife doesn’t really get birthdays, that’s all. When she was growing up, with a bunch of cousins and other family, birthdays seem to have been mild things, acknowledged but not the big deal they were in my (much smaller) family. I can get her a card for her birthday and she’s fine, although I try a little harder. I’ve actually thrown her a few parties.

But that’s me, and I have no problem with her lack of enthusiasm for my birthday. I usually have enough enthusiasm. I tend to think of my birthdays, falling as they due in the middle of what is usually a glorious summer of warmth and blue skies, as national holidays. I’m always a little surprised when the mail is delivered.

There it was, though. Apparently a party, apparently for me unless she knows more Chucks than I’m aware of. Apparently at the Andersons, who are good friends and have a comfortable house without obvious signs of water damage, which is an improvement over my house.

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I know what’s going on. My birthday-indifferent wife is worried that I’m going to freak out about turning 60. She wants witnesses, maybe.

I would like to freak out a little, if only to liven things up, but I can’t seem to get there. We live in an era of relative age, and if 75-year-olds are running for president of the United States, I can’t get excited about turning 60. I may have several careers left.

But I get a party, so that’s something. People will show up, all of them notified via email or text messages, and they’ll set reminders on their phones so they don’t forget. It will be a summer of bells and whistles, then.

And, of course, they’ll mark it on their electronic calendars, which will shoot out to all their family members, and since there’s a Law of Large Numbers, and I have no idea what it is, I have to assume the Andersons might, at some point, have to alert their neighbors.

It’ll be fun, though. And the next day, if I get a notification asking me to review the party, I won’t be surprised. Although I might be in the kitchen, making daiquiris.

I do love a good blender.


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