Friday, August 1, 2014

Working (un)smarter and harder

A few years ago, a friend expressed surprise over my ownership of a fax machine. “Gee, I haven’t used one of those in years? Does anyone still fax?”

Oh, yes, as I’m finding out. Government agencies. Medical offices. Some businesses. Sign this, send your approval, submit pages of paperwork.

It’s even truer as I try to help my elderly parents navigate bureaucratic systems from a thousand miles away.

My father does have a computer, and a scanner, and a fax, but he’s currently in the hospital without access.

My mother shuns most technology and only remembers the most basic functions of her mobile phone: answer calls; place calls.

Neither will check voice mail messages, and so my brother clears hundreds from their inbox whenever he visits.

Articles on the Internet portray a much different reality. Smartphones used for shopping, banking, making payments, getting tickets for events, displaying boarding passes.

Sometimes I even believe the hype, expecting the quick extinction of cash in my wallet, newspapers on the kitchen table, magazines at bedside, and mail by my friendly postal carrier Bob.

But this week I’ve been thrown back to the pre-smartphone, un-Web days. In trying to liaise between my parents and various medical, insurance, and municipal agencies, the phone and fax have become tools of the trade.

I even resorted to USPS Priority Mail service when a receiving fax machine hiccuped.

I'll admit I love the digital life, but can we please make it additive, and not a category killer to existing technologies?

It may be hard to believe, but even in an age of smarter-than-the-average-bear devices, it sometimes takes an old-fashioned fax to get things done.

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