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The Last Windrow: Pros and cons of a smart phone

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I own a "smart phone." It doesn't necessarily make me any smarter, but it does give my ego a boost knowing that I have a smart phone in my shirt's pocket.

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When my coffee slurping friends come up with a question that no one at the cafe table can answer, it gives me loads of pleasure to pull out that little, flat, black, shiny piece of plastic and look up the answer. Maybe in their eyes that makes me smarter, but I don't think so.

Like many folks in this country, I have become a bit attached to this piece of technology that did not exist even 10 years ago. Now, almost everyone I see on the street has one of these things either at their ear or held in their hand while they stare at the screen in somewhat of trance-like state.

My wife, daughter and I were attending a Minnesota Twins game a year or so ago. It was a tight game into the eighth inning and either team could have come out the winner. As I watched from the upper deck I chanced to glance around at the crowd. They should have been watching the next pitch, but instead a vast majority of them were looking at the smart phone they held in their hands.

I wondered why they paid the price of a ticket and for an over-priced bratwurst when they could just as well have stood outside the stadium and looked at their phones and got the score on the street?

Now, don't get me wrong. Even though I'm not a total fan of this over-priced bit of techy-ness, I do admit that there are times when it comes in handy. I can look up fishing regulations when I'm getting close to the limit, I can find which towns are speed traps on my way to a vacation, I can sift through eating places when I'm looking for a good burger and I can check on the birthdays of family members without insulting them by asking them directly.

My smart phone would have come in handy back during those days on the farm when I poked a hole in my tractor's tire by running over a steel fence post at the far end of the section. Instead of having to walk a mile back to the house, I could have called my dad to come and get me.

Of course, he may have refused anyway as a way to teach me not to run over steel fence posts in the future.

The phone would have come in handy when the chute of our neighbor's silage chopper hooked the telephone wires strung out across our field, which immediately took our and our neighbor's phones out of commission. We could have used a smart phone to call into the phone company's office and report the incident. I bet they would have appreciated that.

One of my concerns about these things is that they might be taking away the ability to talk face to face (or phone to phone) to our friends and work partners. It is becoming increasingly more popular to just send an email or do a text message to someone when we need to correspond.

I find that rather troubling. In the world I grew up in, when we needed to talk about an issue or give a compliment or offer sympathy, we called that person and physically used our voice to express our thoughts. I think that is still very important. The ability to do that all using technology today seems to me to be taking some human-ness out of our lives.

I would rather speak directly to someone who likes my column or hates my column rather than receive a text about it. It seems something is missing there.

But, I should not bash this piece of plastic in my pocket too much. I have been known to have written this column on it when I missed my deadline. So, I'm biting my lip a bit knowing that.

And, I'll still get some devious pleasure out of knowing that I can provide instantaneous information to my coffee pals at the cafe table tomorrow morning by pulling out my smart phone and looking smart.

I admit, that is a perk.

See you next time. Okay?

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