A Curmudgeon's Perspective
There’s a scene in “Men in Black II” where Agent J (Will Smith) tells Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), “Don’t push the red button.” Of course, he does. The car he’s driving suddenly transforms into one that flies, and the steering wheel is replaced by an unfamiliar object that looks like a Playstation controller. When K asks what it is, J responds, “Didn’t your mom ever buy you a Playstation?” To which K replies, “A what?”
For some reason, I identify strongly with K in that scene. It’s not just that I’ve often been compared to Tommy Lee Jones (particularly in his younger years). Like a lot of my … er … older peers, I have an immediate fear reaction to anything that even smells like a newfangled electronic device. Invariably, I panic over hitting the wrong button—and then proceed to do so anyway.
All the new technology intimidates me somewhat, and my inclination is to avoid it whenever possible. But, the reality of the world—the business world in particular—is that you either get comfortable with tomorrow’s technology or risk becoming obsolete. They say, for example that nearly all U.S. consumers now use online media when looking for a product or service (including legal services!) in their area. You probably have a website—it’s not too hard to get some kid to help you set one up, and spending some money to get a good one is worth it. But that’s not enough. Social media and other web-based communication gadgets and services are a large part of the mix.
Old Guys Have Special Technology Needs, Too
They didn’t even make Playstations until I was in my fifites (my mom certainly never got me one). And I used a slide rule to get through college math. But I’ve done okay sticking to the idea that you use technology as a tool, not a toy—and you spend a little extra time making sure you are using the right tool for the job. Since us old guys have special needs—we can’t see, we can’t hear and our fingers don’t work all that well anymore—lately I’ve had to amend that rule: In selecting a device, make sure it works for you.
- Once I tried to read a text message while driving on the freeway. Obviously a bad idea, I couldn’t see the screen with my prescription sunglasses on and I couldn’t read the words when I took them off. Never try to type or read and drive. And get a device that has letters big enough to read and a screen bright enough to see. And get some help adjusting the settings so the screen is easier to read.
- I no longer hear well if there is much ambient noise, like in a restaurant. So, if I want to hear my caller, I need to be able to adjust the volume or have access to an ear piece. And, no, I do not walk around with my Bluetooth in my ear—I think that looks even dorkier on an old guy than on the young ones! You may also have some calls that everyone in the surrounding area does not need to hear. Test the device in different conditions, and make sure you can make the necessary adjustments easily.
- About those teeny tiny buttons on those teeny tiny keyboards. Stay away. Find a device you can actually read and push the right buttons. My fat fingers can record a slew of letters with one push, and then I have to spend twice as long straightening out my number or message. And who the hell can type with their thumbs anyway? If God had wanted us to type that way, he wouldn’t have created QWERTY in the first place.
Lastly, and most importantly, never ever push the red button! It’s safer that way.
Otto Sorts has been reading law since before Martindale met Hubbell. Of Counsel at a large corporate firm that prefers to remain anonymous, Otto is a respected attorney and champion of the grand tradition of the law. He is, however, suspicious of “new-fangled” management ideas and anyone who calls the profession the legal “industry.” When he gets really cranky about something he blogs at Attorney at Work.