Why Lizzie wonders if Ollie’s shooting for the Moon

When does the need for answers make us too tech-heavy? And are we becoming the slave rather than the master. Lizzie challenges husband Ollie about the tech he feels he has to have with him for a two-day conference…

Lizzie looked at the jumble of plugs and cables Ollie had assembled on the kitchen worktop whilst he busily checked them off on his fingers. “So where is this two-day conference happening, Banks? At an hotel less than fifty miles away, or in deep space?” she wanted to know. There was no response from Ollie.

“You’ve got more tech there than NASA needs to put a man into orbit. Perhaps you are going to put a man into orbit? I hadn’t thought of that. Had you, Biffo?” she said, looking at the family Basset Hound. Biffo, hearing his name, summoned as much energy as he could muster, and put it all into raising one eyebrow. There was still no answer from her husband.

“Earth to Banks, Earth to Banks; come in, Banks,” she said, turning back to Ollie, who, startled, said: “What? Oh, sorry. I was checking that I had all the chargers and cables and things for the kit I’m taking to the conference tomorrow.”

Lizzie waved a hand at the things Ollie had brought together. “Do you think there’s a possibility that we’re a bit too tech-heavy these days? I mean, it’s hard to be able to do anything that’s not WiFi enabled or with a screen attached. Look at you. Personal phone. Work phone. Laptop. iPad. Enormous earphones. That big old clunky camera you insist on carrying about. Do you really need all of it, or is it part of some kind of addiction that seems to be gripping the world?”

“I hope you didn’t just say I had big ears. Or did you mean that the earphones are big? They’re state of the art.”

“And that’s the trouble, Banks,” said Lizzie. “We’ve become slaves to technology; slaves to having the best of this and the latest of that. We don’t seem to be able to spend more than a few minutes without looking at a screen. And whilst we do it, the real world is passing us by. I bet you’ll be peering at the screen last thing at night whilst you sit in that hotel bed. The next thing you know is that you won’t be able to sleep. And what will you do then? Pick up your phone. Frankly, it bothers me.”

Ollie agreed with her. “It bothers me too, which is why we drew up the Banks family phone charter.” He pointed to it, fastened to the front of the fridge with some of Alice’s alphabet magnets. “The real trouble is that if I don’t have the right answers at the right time, I won’t be doing as well as I might be. All of this stuff will help me find the answers.”

A simpler life
Lizzie nodded. “OK; I hear you. Tech can have the answers, and be magical. But remember how your dad used to play when he was young and there was no tech. Climbing trees. Riding his bike. Splashing about in streams. That was magical too, in its own way. And later, remember how he met your mum. They were at a dance. They used to go for walks and stuff. Another kind of magical.”

“OK,” he said. “I hear what you’re saying. But I won’t forget that everything here has an ‘off’ button, and I promise that’s the way it’ll stay unless I absolutely need it. I’ll even turn the phone off an hour before I go to bed.”

“Ah, a bit of self-discipline. That’s what we like to see,” she said. “But remember this: if all the delegates at this conference do end up pooling tech and sending someone into orbit, and it turns out to be you, tell them you need to be back for the weekend. We’ve promised to go out for dinner.”

Ollie smiled. “And you’ll not be able to remind me, if my phone’s turned off. Anyway, it’lI prove I love you to the moon and back, even if you do call me an old romantic…”