Seeing Past the Roadblock of Technology

Seeing Past the Roadblock of Technology

I’m a tech guy.  I’m in a tech-related job and I love tech and gadgets and all the good things they bring to life.  But sometimes, just sometimes, technology gets in the way.  Sometimes we find ourselves unable to see past it and unable to function without it.  And sometimes that causes us to fail to see the real problem.  I was thinking about that a lot as I ran into exactly that kind of problem this weekend, and it reminded me of another, similar incident from a few years ago.  So here are some of the things that happen when dependence on technology blinds its users to the truth…

This past Sunday, I went to get new glasses.  I last got glasses about 2 years ago, but recently my glasses broke.  I still had the contacts I’d got last year, but I have been having a lot of allergy problems lately making wearing them nearly impossible, but I couldn’t exactly wear my broken glasses.  So I decided to bite the bullet and go get new ones — two pairs — a distance/driving pair, and a pair for working at the computer.

The eye doctor had all the latest and greatest measurement tools, and she took all kinds of pictures and readings with her advanced equipment and computers; she took those readings as a basis for new glasses and away we went.  Sort of.

Starting with the computer generated numbers and settings, she flipped lenses until I said I could see reasonably well.  Then the doctor had me “trial” the new computer glasses.  That’s when the trouble began.  I indicated that they didn’t seem quite right.  Hmm.

The computer put us there, so I probably just needed to get adjusted to the new prescription.  At least that’s what the doctor said.  Okay – she’s the doctor.   So off they went to make both pairs of new glasses.

Later in the afternoon I returned to pick up the new glasses, but it didn’t take me long to decide that they were terrible; I couldn’t see with either pair.  I told the staff this and they said ,”oh – well you just have to adjust to them.”

Now let me stop the story here for a moment.  It’s important to understand that I’ve worn glasses most of my life.  I KNOW the difference between a need to adjust to a new prescription and a prescription that is just plain wrong.  I told them that.  But they felt that the lab did what the doctor wrote, and the all the equipment said that this is what I needed, so I must just “need to adjust to them”.  Uh huh.  Against my better judgement, I agreed to try for a few more days; there was no reason (yet) to be unnecessarily argumentative.

Flash forward a few days today.   I took them back, and I repeated my concerns.  I told them the right eye was clear, but the left eye was totally fuzzy.  I again indicated that adjusting to them wasn’t the issue – these lenses were simply wrong.  They fussed, but I firmly persisted.  They indicated that the lab did exactly what the doctor had written.  I agreed that this was probably true, but wasn’t it possible that the doctor had made the mistake?

They really didn’t like that, but I continued to be firm and they eventually relented and put me in with a different doctor to be re-screened.  No computer this time – just flipping the lenses until I said I could see clearly.  I should point out that this was done last time too, but using the computer’s numbers as a starting point.  But in the end, I was right.  The prescription was wrong.  The computer had gotten it wrong because it neglected to take into consideration that I had a strong astigmatism, but I’d had it for so long that my eyes had partially adjusted to it.  The end result was that it also made the assumptions of the first doctor all wrong.  The new prescription was completely different from the one first recorded for me on the other visit.  The problem here?  The staff was so convinced that there could not be a mistake that they would not listen to what I was telling them.  They wasted my time and energy and lost me as a potential future customer, because they were blinded by what their technology told them . They failed to give any weight to me – the customer – even though I indicated during the process that I was concerned that things “weren’t right”.

Okay, now flash back a few years.  There is a noise coming from the wheel of my car.  The technician (definitely NOT a “mechanic”?) said nothing was wrong.  I insisted there was.  We went back and forth.  I left and continued to drive the car and the noise kept getting worse.

Ultimately, I had the car in 4 times for this problem, and each time the noise got louder and louder.  Finally, on that last trip, I got an older gentleman helping me who had been around the auto shops for a while.  He asked me a couple of questions and then pronounced “Oh – the wheel bearing is going bad.  That happens on that vehicle.”  So tell me, why was the technician incapable of diagnosing the problem on the previous visits?  Easy – because his diagnostics couldn’t see it.  It was a mechanical problem – and not the type of problem that the on-board computer knew how to record or report on.  So the technician didn’t know how to be a mechanic; he truly was a technician, and one that couldn’t see past the technology he was using.

So what do we see here?  I think that in both these cases, dependence on technology had become a crutch for the people using it, and they had difficulty operating outside the boundaries of their technologies.  Technology is a wonderful thing that aids us in so many ways.  But I really believe that we have to be able to operate outside of it too, or we will ultimately fail.  We need to learn proper grammar and spelling, and not hope that our word processing apps and auto-correct functions will always catch our mistakes.  We need to be able to perform simple arithmetic without a calculator.  We need to be able to write with pencil and paper.  We should enjoy all of the amazing technology around us, but we should never forget how to function without it.

What do you think?  Do you have “technology roadblocks” that you have had to overcome?  Tell us about them!

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About the Author

Christopher Gavula
Chris has been a COBOL programmer, a desktop support technician, network engineer, telecommunications manager, and even a professional musician. Currently, he is focused on deploying Voice over IP technologies in a large, corporate setting. He started working full-time at the tender age of 14, even before there were PCs, and will probably be working and trying to finish “just one more project” as he’s lowered into the grave.

1 Comment on "Seeing Past the Roadblock of Technology"

  1. I was recently told the same thing…that I needed to adjust to my new eye glasses which I knew to be defective from the first moment I put them on.

    I went to another lab, and they made the glasses perfectly.

    I order a lot of items online, and usually I’m satisfied. Sometimes I’m frustrated, but I usually get my money back if there’s a problem. There’s been a few rare cases where I got back more than I was owed, despite my efforts to be completely honest with the company and point out their errors.

    A couple of years ago, I ordered two speaker stands for $79 each. Shipping was supposed to be free, but they charged me $12.99. I called to complain as soon as I saw the charge on my credit card, and they promptly refunded it…twice. I called back to let them know, and they said to just keep the extra $12.99 for my trouble.

    That’s not the end of the story. When the stands arrived, they came in two boxes. One box contained two stands. The other had one. I called to let them know they’d shipped an extra stand. They said they’d issue a call tag. A couple of weeks passed and the extra stand was not picked up. I called again, and they issued another call tag and picked it up within a couple of days. A few days later, UPS attempted pickup again…presumably with the first call tag that took so long to be issued.

    That’s not the end of the story. When they received the speaker stand, they issued a refund for $79. I had not paid for the third stand. I called to let them know, and their rep said not to worry about it. I said, “Thank you very much.” I’d have felt guilty if I hadn’t called, even though they repeatedly failed to give quality service. They’d rather have their inventory count be wrong and lose that much money than admit their order fulfillment process was flawed.

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