That’s a question I envision my sons asking me in a few years. And yet, there I was staring back at the nice old lady with my mouth in a half opened grimace searching for words. She had just asked me the simplest of questions: “Where is the nearest travel agency?”
I am so used to reacting automatically to questions for directions that my body was slightly turned and finger raised, ready to point out the North, South, East and West of it to this poor frightened lost tourist in the big bad city.
I was at a loss, thinking to myself “Aren’t they extinct?”, but quickly recovered and asked what she needed a travel agency for since there were very few still around. She wanted to visit family in D.C. and was looking to book a flight. Someone told her to look online and she frankly didn’t know where that was so she started walking around asking people.
Granted this seems an extreme case in our über-connected world, but this lady was seriously walking around looking for a travel agency. I vaguely remembered seeing a Liberty Travel somewhere in the neighborhood, but I did not want her to keep wandering aimlessly until she found the guy who said “Sure lady! My cousin has a travel agency…” This is New York after all. So out came the iPhone and I showed her that there was one fairly close by and sent her on her way.
I stared at my phone before slipping it back into my pocket and as I walked on I got to thinking that indeed technology is a wonderful thing to have at your fingertips. With a few clicks this woman would have booked her flight and printed her tickets. Then I thought how terribly helpless someone like that feels. It is not, obviously life threatening, but it is still something we take for granted and yet for some (or maybe many) is a real daily hurdle. I will even guess that with the exponential advancement of technology in the last 20 years doesn’t help either, but wasn’t that the case in prior decades? I read that the iPad is helping Alzheimer’s patients which is incredible and yet this lady was unable to do the simplest of tasks like buy a ticket. I guess it is an inevitable technological limbo that many of us will pass into as “our” technologies become outdated and we find daily amenities out of reach – good thing I’ll be able to call my kids to help me out (if cell phones and Skype still exist). I’m still getting over the fact that she was actually looking for a travel agency – me – the jaded New Yorker.