Monday, February 9, 2009
I’ve met a few folks who are as gadget connected as me, but not many. It’s not a matter of pride. It may well be an addiction. (Is there a twelve-step program for a gadget obsession?) When I’m traveling alone, as I did this week, my dashboard looks a lot like the back of my desktop computer. Cables everywhere.
There’s a single strand of wire hanging out of my cassette player. Both cigarette lighter sockets (which don’t light cigarettes much anymore in anyone’s car) are both occupied. They power my iPhone and my GPS. The little cable dangling over the opening where you would slip in a cassette tape is actually an adapter that connects to the iPhone, enabling me to listen to the device through the car’s surround sound stereo system.
That thin little iPhone goes well beyond any gadget guy’s wildest expectation. It gathers up my e-mail on the fly, three different accounts, enables me to Google or Wiki from anywhere any time. The little blue flashing ball on the onboard map gives me my precise location along with a red tack on my destination, just like a bulletin board. I can tune in to Internet music, or play any of my on-board CDs or up-to-the-minute podcasts. And because it’s in constant use, the battery might otherwise go dead accept that I’ve always got it plugged in to the cigarette lighter. If I set an appointment, or update a phone number, the change goes up to the Internet and back to my desktop and laptop. I can snap a photo and e-mail it off to my mom. And as long as the Bluetooth headset is charged up, I can answer the calls by tapping a little button behind my ear and stay in compliance with the new California laws.
I don’t talk about these things much. If I get going on a tech conversation with anyone who shows the slightest bit of interest, Carolyn will roll her eyes and attempt a subject change. Guys generally shut down if you catch them not knowing stuff they think they ought to know, so a lot of this I just keep to myself.
So at the end of dinner at the leadership conference in Carefree, Arizona, my good friend Dathan Brown suggested we go to a movie. It was an open night. Sounded good to me. So I pulled out my iPhone and within minutes had the movie schedule, the address of the closest theater with a map already plotted including distance and ETA all calculated. Heck, we could have even watched the movie trailer right there over the coffee and lemon cake if we wanted. But that was stretching it.
Dathan said, “Cool.”
“Let’s go for it,” I nodded. And when we fired up my car, I moved all the wires out of the way so Dathan could get into the passenger seat up front, and off we went just after sundown.
Under the Arizona stars, we drove on as Venus shone bright against the velvet black sky. I let Dathan take a look at the GPS, blue dot flashing. A jagged purple line marked the route to Scottsdale where the eighteen screens were waiting. “Wow,” he said. “That’s cool.” I smiled.
I took a right turn off the main road just where the iPhone said I should. We followed awhile, then took a left, and then another right. It wasn’t long before the pavement ended, but confident in my gadget’s instruction, I followed on as Dathan and I chatted away.
There are no streetlights or sidewalks in the off-road desert between Carefree and Scottsdale. Along the roadway at the intersection of gravel and dust, an occasional Southwest adobe house went by, fireplace aglow, Frank Lloyd Wright lamps illuminating the living room, paintings of horses and rocks and First Americans adorning the walls. It was when Google maps took us to an unexpected dead-end with sagebrush and Saguaro cactus in our headlights that Dathan asked about my supply of fuel. That’s when I looked at my dashboard, saw the red “CHECK FUEL SUPPLY” warning light and a needle on the gage well below the empty mark.
We broke into a belly laugh – the kind two guys let go of when the prospect of complete embarrassment and maybe even a little bit of terror hit. Dathan’s laughter had something to do with this near pathological reliance on gadgetry right before his very eyes. Mine was a combination of humiliation and critter phobia. We had read the warnings back at the conference center about scorpions and black widows and coyote and mountain lion and rattle snakes and javelina and jumping cholla cactus.
Would we be in for a long night’s stroll through the open desert? Coyotes howling?
* * * * * *
At the Shell station back on the main road, we laughed again. Somehow the iPhone got us back. The remaining fumes kept the pistons firing just long enough. Slumdog Millionaire took us from the stench of heart-breaking poverty to the wild foot stomping of celebration and joy at the train station.
And the nighttime adventure left us with some thoughts on leadership. It was after all, a leadership conference.
Monday mornings come upon us with relentless regularity. And when our gadgets take us to a dead end in the black of night, we’re not alone.
You are a leader. We are running together. We may think the fuel’s run out. We may fear the charge of a herd of javelina or a hungry mountain lion or the debilitating sting of a scorpion.
But the stars still shine. We make our adjustments. And we learn to trust the One who got us this far.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2009