Traveling with Apps

Last month I took my second airplane trip post-Covid. This time I went international, from Canada to the US. To expedite the many processes involved, I downloaded three apps and pre-booked a time with security. All in the hopes of making the painful parts faster with less waiting and aggravation. For the most part, it did expedite a few things, such as immigration on both sides. I couldn’t really tell with security and the check-in process still seemed kind of clunky.

The three apps included the airline, mobile passport control (for crossing into the States) and ArriveCAN (for coming back to Canada). I booked time slots with security both ways. The first line wasn’t that busy so I’m not sure if the reservation made a difference. On the return trip, the security line was long so maybe it helped a tiny bit, but we still had to wait.

The airline app offered some neat perks. For example, I could check the status of my flight and the inbound flight. This was a nice feature. By tracking the inbound flight I had a sense if there was going to be a delay. The app included maps of the airport terminals. However, the app didn’t help much with the check in process.

The immigration apps seemed to make things a little bit faster. Having filled out my immigration information on the app allowed me to jump to the front of the line on both sides. However, I felt annoyed to continually pull out my phone to show somebody. At the self-serve immigration kiosk, I entered my info and received a printed receipt. I showed the paper receipt to leave immigration and then handed it to an agent leaving customs. More juggling with the phone and papers to get through the process.

On the whole, it did make some parts faster. However, I found navigating through the many apps and locating the right information quickly to be a little cumbersome. When I’m moving around carrying lots of things, having paper (e.g., boarding pass) can sometimes be quicker. Otherwise I was taking my phone in and out of my bag, mostly because pockets aren’t big enough in women’s clothing, unlocking the screen, searching for the app, adjusting brightness, also pulling out my passport, etc. In other words, it wasn’t the seamless, high-tech solution I was expecting, but offered some promising aspects.

A Tolerance for Typos

Typos. They’re everywhere, even with so many automated features built in to make our writing better, more grammatically correct, and spelled properly. Sometimes when I’m typing the typos correct themselves. Usually this happens if it’s a small error. Other times, the improperly spelled word appears underlined, or highlighted in some way, to catch my attention.

If the typo isn’t fixed automatically, the spell check is available. This feature also checks grammar. I use a plug-in for my blog that tracks things like:

  • passive voice
  • sentence length
  • variety in my sentences

We all have plenty of options, automated or manual, to improve our writing. So why then, do I still see so many errors? More importantly, I see so many avoidable errors. Also, in situations where maybe these features are not so available, I see lots of typos. To be fair, I also have the occasional typo, or incorrect word, with some messaging apps. However, I’m one of those people that still takes a few extra seconds to put punctuation and capital letters in the majority of my text messages. It took me years to feel comfortable using internet slang. I still need to look up slang on a semi-regular basis.

In a recent round of hiring, I overlooked resume typos from two candidates. One was a spelling mistake that any checker would have caught. Not that long ago, these resumes wouldn’t have even made it to a phone screening. Fortunately for these candidates, my tolerance for typos has relaxed in recent years. I suppose this is a combination of making my own typos and learning to ignore them because they’re so ubiquitous.

With so many options to use AI for generating content, I can’t help but wonder if these new tools will also learn to mimic and recreate our typos. It would certainly add an element of authenticity, as though a real human created the content. However, it does perpetuate an ongoing decline in our written language. While some might argue language is meant to evolve, I would be hesitant to use that as an excuse for poor spelling, abundant usage of internet slang, and easy grammar mistakes.

While we do have tools and features to make it easy for us to write and spell perfectly, we have not perfected the use of them.

New Age Meets Old School

When I leased my first hybrid vehicle, the amount of paperwork involved surprised me. Naturally, I prepared myself for the lease signing. I knew it would take at least an hour to sort out the details. I packed a book and a bottle of water for the wait. However, the actual amount of paper involved shocked me.

With the details confirmed, I watched in astonishment as the finance person printed out two sets of documents. He even wore a rubber grip on one finger to make sorting through the papers easier. He riffled through the pile of printed papers quickly and efficiently, sorting them into two stacks. I could tell he had done this many, many times before. One stack he signed, stapled, and stuffed into a folder for me.

He explained this was my copy, printed double sided. There was no need for me to sign it, but he signed it. This felt very weird to me that there might not be an original document with signatures of both parties involved. I asked about e-signing. The finance person explained it was no longer an option because of fraud.

While I sat puzzled by this piece of information, the next set of documents slid towards me under the slot of the plastic partition. Printed single sided, I had to sign and initial the papers. Which I did in lots of places, highlighted in bright yellow by the finance person as I skimmed the documents. With the tedious signing process completed, the stack was ready for scanning. The whole process felt strange and outdated to me. And why couldn’t I get a copy of the scanned version? What was the point of giving me my own set of partially signed paper documents to scan myself later?

Puzzling through the sequence of steps later, the records-side of me had to wonder, where was the original? Could there still be an original with only partially signed documents? And if fraud happened in the first rounds of using e-signing, why couldn’t I e-sign directly with the finance person after he confirmed my identity?

As I drove away, listening to the purr of the quiet electric motor, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’ll ever be free of these inefficient, oudated, processes.

The Sound of My Soul

At the end of the summer, I took my first flight since Covid. We went to Halifax, a city I always wanted to visit. Landing in this new city I could immediately sense a difference, especially after living near fresh water for over ten years. The change was palpable. My tongue tasted salt in the air. Though I was visiting a different part of the Atlantic, it still felt comfortable and like home to me.

On our first full day we rode the ferry from Dartmouth to Halifax. My nostrils expanded to inhale the briny air. My lungs swelled, thirsty for more of the fresh, salty breeze surrounding us as we zipped across the water.

Two days later we drove to the iconic Peggy’s Cove. Standing on the white rocks surrounding the lighthouse I reconnected and recharged with the sound of my soul. I reveled in the strong crashes of the waves against the rocks. The relentless shushing and cresting of one wave after another pressing against the shoreline.

The next day, eager for more time with the ocean, we spent the afternoon at the beach. Wind dusted up the sand and made it feel chilly, despite the bright sun. I still put on my bathing suit and went swimming. The frigid temperature of the water hurt my face, while refreshing me at the same time. I didn’t last long, but it felt glorious.

Time was short the following day, but we managed to squeak in one last trip to the shore again. The sky was overcast. However, it wasn’t windy and felt warmer. The water had been calm the day before. Now it was swirling and churning, the high tide rushing in. Once again reminding me of the many moods of the ocean and how mercurial she can be. Calm and smooth as glass one day. Still and freezing cold the next. Roiling and white-capped at other times. Yet, always with the same essential qualities to restore, recharge, and refresh.

The Vast Realms of Friendship

I grew up in the analog age when the kinds of friendships were more limited. We didn’t have “facebook” friends, chat buddies, or communicate with people we hadn’t met IRL first. Friends lived close by. The few long-distance friends I had from various camps never lasted long. Mostly, I think, because the effort of communicating via snail mail was too onerous to maintain. In those days, even calling a different part of the state could be expensive. Some of my friends lived in different states altogether.

The phone was also a friend lifeline, especially in the tween years. In those years I was still too young to go out by myself. I used to spend hours and hours talking on the phone with various friends. It seems strange to me that young kids may not have regular access to a phone, unless they have their own cell phone, or can share with someone. In school we passed handwritten notes to each other. I found a stashed box of them a few years ago cleaning out my childhood bedroom.

These days the whole nature of friendship feels fundamentally altered. I have some friends with a more “traditional” friendship. We message somewhat regularly and even, gasp, call each other. These friends don’t live that close so in-person meetings can be a bit tricky.

Then there are others with whom I communicate mostly through messaging with the occasional in-person meetings. These I find more challenging to understand the nature of the friendship. It’s easy to hide behind text messages and slow the pace of communication. Responses can be delayed, vague, or even non-existent leaving the other person to wonder. Recently I was wondering about some friends. Shockingly, I got my answer accidentally through social media. Photo confirmation popped up in my feed one day confirming my suspicions that I had been dropped. I wouldn’t say I had FOMO over this, but it was a devastating way to find out. I also rarely use social media, so the whole thing felt weird and unsettling to me.

True friends, however, are the ones you can contact through any medium, anytime. When you do, they’re happy to hear from you. They’ll reach out if you’ve “gone dark” for a while. Most importantly, you can always pick up where you left off, even if you have a few kinks to work out every once in a while.

My Chatbot Buddy

Chancey sighed deeply and took another look around the empty room. It was definitely before his time, but he had heard about these famed writers’ rooms. Yes, writers, plural. As in more than one person participating. He wasn’t even sure why he was in this room. Wasn’t this the kind of thing he could do from home? Couldn’t he be comfortable in his pjs, sipping something tasty from his favorite mug, and working?

The windowless room felt suffocating. Even more so when Chancey felt stifled by Anora, his Chatbot Buddy. Connected almost at birth, Anora had been Chancey’s silent, sometimes not-so-silent, Buddy. During his infancy, and beyond, Anora had been there to interpret, predict, customize, and learn all about Chancey. Sometimes even before Chancey had time to discover for himself. All of which led to this job, in this cell of a room, designed for at least 8 people, but now with one. Or rather, one plus, if Chancey was being fair to give Anora some credit. After all, it was the fun, quirky, relationship between Chancey and Anora that landed “them” Chancey’s dream job of being a scene writer.

At least Chancey thought it was his dream job. Anora tailored so many things to Chancey’s every whim, sometimes it was hard for him to tell what should be something permanent versus a fleeting thought. Anyways, here they were. Chancey racking his brain for good ideas. Transmitting them to Anora and waiting for the good stuff to come back. Or at least something workable to mold into a decent scene.

Having a Buddy was wonderful and strange. Chancey often mused how his parents ever got anything accomplished, or even figured out where to order dinner without having a Buddy. How did they even function before Feeds and Buddies? Chancey shook his head in wonder. Then shook his head again, stroked the feed in his forearm and concentrated. A moment later a familiar twang jolted Chancey’s body.

“Yes, Chancey?”

“Anora, tell me a story about two people living before Feeds and Buddies, but with some technology. They have those clever phones, but they need to drive their own cars, and search for their own information.”

Chancey sighed again. He stood to stretch his legs. Then sat down, grabbed the plain, boring mug on the long table and took a sip. Anora was ready to begin and so was Chancey.