When I was a teenager and obsessed with makeup, I worried that mascara would be blacklisted by the FDA or Health Canada and no longer be available. A more important worry, as I became dependent on hearing assistive technology, was that a world shortage of zinc would force battery makers to shut down. I am a battery-operated person; this would shut me down, too.
My latest fear is power blackouts. I am not a ‘natural’ person—I depend on artificial stimulants—electrical juice as well as battery power—to hear and communicate. Reading the words of texts, emails and voice-to-text messages, is as important as hearing in a phone conversation.
Last week, returning from a camping trip, the Hearing Husband and I stopped at a Tim Hortons for coffee and WiFi. The place was hopping and it took some time to get a table near an electrical outlet so that I could plug in my laptop. I thought, “Is this what I’ve become? Eyeballing an elderly couple until they give up their table next to an outlet?” But I felt no remorse. They had probably been nursing that coffee for over an hour and I needed the plug. They didn’t—they were talking, to each other. Who does that anymore? Coffee shops are for emailing, posting blogs, Facebook catch-ups and making business deals with people who aren’t there—not conversations with people across the table! You can do that outside in the parking lot or on the lawn. Inside is for plugged activity.
The Hearing Husband and I, along with our two cats Charlie and Nickie, have spent much of the last year traveling in Flag, our 32’ fifth wheel. Space is at a premium and we try our best to keep it tidy and keep some surfaces free of stuff. But wherever you look, devices are plugged in and charging. It’s frightening—in the night-gloom, the camper glows with little dots of light—red, blue, green, and yellowy-white. Doug has his cellphone and laptop and the hotspot which provides emergency WiFi when we are on the road or staying at campgrounds with spotty coverage. (“Yes ma’am, our WiFi works OK. But not at night. Or in the morning. Best coverage is in the laundry room.”) I’ve got my laptop, my iPad, and my cellphone. Last week, I was fitted with new hearing aids (life is very loud at the moment) and for the first time, I have an Oticon streamer that connects me to all things Bluetooth and looped, plus a bunch of other stuff I haven’t figured out yet. It’s fabulous, with the only drawbacks being that it doesn’t ‘go’ with anything I wear and it is one more device that requires constant juice-up (I work these babies hard).
And don’t get me going on the cords, all of which have different connectors. The streamer cord is so long that I could stretch it between two trees as a clothesline. All cords get tangled easily. Driving in the car, I need a whole new set of cords to use with the 12V outlet. Please, Santa, bring me a one-size-charges-all Master Charger Cord this year?
But home or car-charging isn’t always enough—especially when I forget to charge one device or another before retiring for the night. Like most people, I have to grab power where I can find it. There’s an old saying: never pass up a washroom (and a couple of other choice things). But the modern person would add never pass up a plug. In a café in rural Newfoundland, the owner kindly charged our cellphones behind the bar and I’ve been known to grab a minute or two of power in a public washroom.
In the airport waiting lounge, people who once would not dream of sitting on the floor, now sit cross-legged or, if wearing a skirt, straight-legged with ankles nicely crossed, charging their device in one of the few outlets at their gate. Nowadays, even grannies and people in full business attire are getting down and dirty on the floor, once the domain of backpackers and sleeping children.
Although I do dread a repeat of the famous power blackout of 2003 (my only device was a cellphone that I charged in the car), society is rising to meet the demand for on-the-go charging. Many airports now have charging poles in the waiting lounge, allowing us to sit in chairs with dignity. But if you get up to use the facilities, you may lose your spot to someone who has been waiting for your bum to rise off that seat. Even better are the large counters designed for computer users and chargers; some airport lounges have tables overflowing with iPads or other tablets. It’s the new reality.
But is our appetite for modern technology putting a drain on energy resources? I worried about the cost of charging my devices; was I an energy hog, a de-greener of the planet? It’s not my fault that the world has more cellphones that toilets. But, according to Forbes magazine, it costs just pennies to charge and use our electronic device.
I would pay more. Bring on the cords, plugs, and batteries—this girl wants to hear.