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The Inconveniences of Modern Technology

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It is rare that I have an idea for a blog post before I sit down to write. I had such a typical human interaction yesterday that I have not been able to get out of my mind. It was one of those interactions that was mundane and has probably been experienced thousands of times before. Still, it was important to me. It made me feel alive.

When I went to order a coffee at my new favorite local coffee house, I decided to pay using Apple Pay. This was my second time using Apple Pay. I have had trouble using their card machines in the past. The waitress often needs to spend a minute or so configuring the device before it will accept a payment. When I went there on Wednesday, it took even longer than a minute for the waitress to get the machine working.

While the waitress was preparing the card machine, I offered to pay by cash if that would work better. We both mutually agreed that we wanted to get the card machine to work. It would be easier for me to pay with Apple Pay once the machine was ready. I assume a lot of other customers pay by card so the waitress will have wanted to get it right for every customer.

What made this moment so special to me? We had a brief conversation about the inconveniences of modern technology. I shared that I would be happy to pay by cash. We both agreed to go with the more technically advanced method of payment. We both just wanted it to work.

I’ve felt this way about a lot of technology in the past. I have written some programs and went above and beyong just because I wanted something to work. I wanted to prove, in principle, that I was not willing to concede to the machine. I was the one to be in control. I believe the waitress felt the same way yesterday. She did not want a machine to interfere with how the business accepts payments.

I would say that contactless payments and Apple Pay are positive technologies. I configured Apple Pay a few days ago so that I would not have to touch cash machines that may have been touched by dozens of other people. Without their existence, I wouldn’t have been able to have my short conversation with the waitress about how inconvenient modern technology is.

Once the card machine started working correctly, I had a technical issue on my end. I was going to use Face ID to authenticate myself on my phone so that I could pay using Apple Pay. It turns out that Face ID does not recognize me when I have a mask on. It’s still me underneath. I guess too much of my face is obscured. For an authentication method that is supposed to be more convenient than a passcode, Face ID is far from perfect. I’m not sure who I am complaining to. It’s probably for security reasons that Face ID does not work when you have a mask on. Still, I expect so much better from my tech.

It maybe took about two minutes for me to pay for my coffee. I did not mind the inconvenience. Neither did the waitress from what I could tell. We both knew that modern technology can be unreliable. I was going out for a coffee to escape from modern technology. I guess taking my phone was somewhat of a violation. Still, I like to take a photo of my coffee when I am out.

Today I believe I am going to pay by cash. Cash is easier. It may not be as clean but at least it will be simpler. There’s part of me that does not want to pay by cash. Am I conceding to the machine by paying with cash? Am I losing control? I don’t know. Who knew that ordering a coffee could be so philosophical.

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