Friday, April 05, 2013

Telling A Story About Hate And Technology

Isn’t that still a cool looking camera? That’s one of the new Canon cinema EOS line of cameras I wrote about last year. Canon’s slogan for their small, handheld cinema cameras is: Leave No Story Untold.

Today’s post is vaguely related to a couple of posts from last year—that one, Untold Stories About Stories Untold, and Gadget-Nature: French Musicians As Landscape.

Mostly today's post is about that slogan, that business of leaving no story untold.

Advertising makes the issue appear as if the fancy camera will make it easier for people to tell stories. Because the camera is small and can be easily worked into everyday locations without needing heavy tripods and other typical movie-making paraphernalia.

One point of this post is simply that to me the really difficult part of telling a story often has nothing to do with technology at all. For me—and I’m guessing for at least some other people—the hardest part is slowing down and looking inward and seeing a story in the first place.

Today I’m going to tell a little story that happened to me and I’m telling it because it’s about technology and, at the same time, it’s a story that almost never happened. It’s a story about technology and hate, and how if a person—at least a person like me—wants to have a story to tell in the first place, the issue isn’t about having a small high-tech camera at all, but about getting past hate.

Early this week, when I was getting ready to do Tuesday’s post, Janitors And Movie Stars, I rented that awful film, Maximum Conviction, from a local Redbox machine. This is a photograph of a Redbox movie rental machine I found on the internet some where. But it looks exactly like the double Redbox machine outside our local Walgreens where I rented the film.

When I approached the Redbox machine to rent the film, an older middle-aged couple was attempting to rent a DVD from the left hand vending machine. I stepped up to the right hand machine and started flipping through the available films to find “Maximum Conviction.”

The older couple next to me was having a very hard time. They had picked out a title to rent, but they couldn’t get the machine to work. The woman was holding a handful of credit cards and, one card after another, kept swiping them through the Redbox machine’s card reader. When nothing happened the woman would curse, and try another card.

“Damn machine,” the man said.

It’s hard and it’s embarrassing for me to admit how angry those two older people made me. I don’t even know exactly why they upset me so much. But I quickly found the title I was looking for, selected it, and checked out.

As the right hand vending machine was ejecting the film I had rented, the older couple was still muttering to each other, cursing at the machine, and gesturing, each trying to figure out why the machine wasn’t working.

I was fuming. For some reason, I felt such intense hatred for the old people that it is hard for me to put into words.

I thought: The Redbox people program the damn machine to be as easy to use as possible. The Redbox people want the machines to be easy to use because, of course, they want everybody’s money. All the stupid people have to do is follow the damn directions on the damn screen in front of them and the machine does all the work.

What is wrong with people? I wondered. And I was fuming. How can these people be so out-of-touch with the modern world that they can’t follow simple damned directions on a damn screen right in front of them? What the hell is wrong with them?

I grabbed my DVD when it came out and I actually started to turn away.

But then I stopped myself. I kind of grabbed myself and asked myself what the hell was going on inside my head? Why was I angry? Why was I experiencing any emotion at all?

Instead of wondering what the hell was wrong with the people next to me I asked myself what the hell was wrong with me?

So then I stopped and instead of walking away I took a step to my left and I smiled at the two older people. I pointed at the screen, and I said, “Excuse me, I notice you’re having some problems.” I looked at the screen and it was immediately clear what was wrong. “Before you can check out,” I said, “you have to press the red button to tell the machine you’re ready to check out.”

The man and woman both looked more closely at the screen, as if they were seeing it for the first time. The woman smiled, and touched my shoulder. She pressed the check out button, and the screen changed, and instructed her to swipe a card.

The older couple, the man and woman, were really very nice. They both smiled and thanked me for helping out.

“Oh my,” she said, looking at the animation of a card getting swiped. “Now I do it?”

I told her yes, then walked her through the other steps of putting in a zip code and getting past the screens asking, twice, for an e-mail address.

Just a moment later, the DVD they selected was pushed out of the machine and the woman grabbed it. They were both very nice, thanking me again.

“Why do they make it so hard?” she asked me, nodding toward the machine.

“I don’t know,” I said. “But you’ve got the hang of it now.”

“First time is always the hardest,” the woman said. “I can bring these back anywhere, right?” she asked me.

“You can return to any of the machines,” I said.

The were both very nice, thanking me, and explaining that they were getting a movie to watch with their daughter who is in from out of town. They weren’t sure when and where they’d get a chance to return the film.

They were really very nice.


I still don’t know why I had felt such anger toward them. They were people having trouble with technology.

Why should that make me angry?

I don’t know.

They were really very nice people. They just wanted to watch a movie with their daughter who was visiting from out of town.

The Redbox machine was technology that was supposed to be there to help them do something like that. The older couple, the man and woman, were both doing their part. They were trying to use the technology to have a good time with their daughter.

Why in the world would I get angry at them because they failed to get the technology to work?

I don’t know.

But this makes me think of that Canon camera. It’s so beautiful and it’s such complicated technology and the Canon motto is Leave No Story Untold.

Obviously—I think!—in my head and heart somehow I’m troubled by this business of the technology being beautiful and complicated and how it’s supposed to help us but, I strongly suspect, any number of people simply won’t be able to use the damn stuff to take any pictures all, let alone put together a coherent story.

And if technology stirs up such strong emotions in other people the way it does in me, then how many stories will fail to get told because the stories simply will never happen because it is difficult and uncomfortable to work through such strong emotions in any way at all?

I don’t know.

But when stuff like this happens to me I try to remember it forever because I know it’s going to happen again and I want to be less stupid—less crazy!—the next time.

If that’s possible.

I do know that. I’m telling this story to me. Whatever my problems are with technology, I want to remember the problems are mine, not the people standing next to me just trying to have a good time with their daughter from out of town.

It seems like such a simple thing. I hope I can remember it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What if Christopher Nolan quits INTERSTELLAR and decides to do one more film on BATMAN.