Tuesday, January 27, 2015

*A Wild And Crazy Technology Frenzy

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published January 29, 2015] © 2015 

Over the Christmas holidays, I went into a wild and crazy technology frenzy and had the kids install both Instagram and Uber on my iPhone. I’m not actually interested in posting photos on Instagram myself but my daughter-in-law posts lots of adorable grandtot photos on hers which I was eager to see. Of course, I tried to install it first and messed it up beyond all belief. The kids used to encourage me to try software installs myself (teach a person to fish) but they’ve come to realize that some people simply cannot be taught to fish and will be a drain on society for life. I have many talents, but technology is not one of them.

I confess that part of my motivation was that now that I’ve had a smartphone for two years, I thought it was time to add an app. I didn’t want to rush into anything. I know people who say they have maxed out the number of apps their phone will allow. I’m agog. How do they even remember what all of them do? Every icon on my phone came with the phone and fits on one screen. Or did anyway. I felt bad for that Instagram app all by itself on the second screen so I decided that as long as I had tech support available, I’d add Uber as well. So now the Instagram app has a friend.
I truly think Uber is the best invention ever. As one who has lived in San Diego for decades, my opinion of certain local taxi services is withering at best. I don’t want to mention any names but the ones I’m talking about are often associated with citrus colors. Ever since flat rate transportation companies entered the field, these are the only ones Olof and I will use to go to the airport, having been stood up by the citrus folks one too many times. (Once, my lawn guys took me to the airport in their truck – my suitcase and their mower rolling around in the back - when the citrus service announced it would be an hour late.) 

While taxis regularly circulate around the bars in Pacific Beach, my son and friends, then college students, stood on Prospect Street in downtown La Jolla late one night for an hour and a half for a citrus cab that repeatedly said it was en route but never showed.
A friend who lives in University City waited endlessly for a citrus cab after each of a series of oral surgery appointments in downtown La Jolla. One time, a driver showed up after an hour announcing he was taking pity on her because all the citrus drivers were hoping for airport runs and were simply ignoring her call, despite insisting they were on their way. He expected a generous tip for this.

Worst of all, I can’t even count the number of times I gave rides home to elderly women supermarket patrons waiting with their defrosting groceries for the cab that was called for them but which, 60 minutes later, had still not arrived. Fortunately, I don’t look dangerous so these women were willing to get in my car. Or, kidnapping sounded more appealing than continuing to wait for the cab. I get that cab companies want longer hauls. But saying you’re coming when you’re not? There should be a special place in hackney hell for you guys.
Those ladies waiting outside the supermarket put the Fear of Being a Non-Driving Senior in the Land of Crappy Public Transit squarely in my heart. Buses, alas, aren’t reliable either and often don’t run at night. But Uber happily does short hauls. And comes immediately! Any time! When they say they’re coming, they actually come! On top of that, they’re half the cost! And no I don’t have stock in Uber!

One teeny weeny problem with Uber, at least as far as senior citizens are concerned:  You currently need a smartphone. Fortunately, once your techno savvy kids have installed it for you, the app is almost frightening easy to use. You push the Uber icon and the driver knows where you are because of the GPS on your phone, and comes and gets you. Your credit card is already on file with them so you don’t even have to have cash. Tip is included!
The people who manufacture those large-print totally basic Jitterbug cell phones for the elderly would be wise to immediately make standard an Uber app on it. Advice for 18-year-old techno geek app designers: It should be a button with a CAR on it, okay? You’re dealing with a population who isn’t getting either younger or more techno savvy.

Truly, I think if we could get the smartphone thing worked out, Uber will be the biggest boon to seniors since knee replacements.

Sorry, citrus guys. It’s the juicer for you.


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