Time and technology


Recently, I wrote some essays where I attempted a tilted observation of subjects like time and technology. Specifically, I presented time as potentially being an illusion and technology as misleading.

And I got feedback. Pretty much immediately.

Sun rises. Sun sets. A day to spin. A year to orbit the sun. Time is a verifiable measurement. It is not vague and arbitrary.

Technology makes everything better, and usually it’s operator error when it lets us down. It is trustworthy, it’s us that limits it.

And to those responses, I say bull.

(A soft, polite bull. But yeah. Bull.)

I get the point. Time should be presented as consistent. And technology… well… it does what it’s told, garbage in and garbage out and all that.

But is it what we do, or what we’re allowed to do? And the ideas of time and technology are hardly perfect designs.

A few months ago, I ordered something. Set it up to be delivered to my house, and the package was shipped using the postal service. I had plans to be away for a while and set up a mail hold. When the delivery was delayed a bit, it ran right into the middle of the hold. Overall, no worries. I wasn’t in a rush to receive the item, and it was going to be brought to the house soon after I returned. Easy. Ahh… but the tracking information.

I happened to be logged in checking something around 9 in the morning the day it was supposed to arrive and was instead set aside with the rest of the mail on hold. 9:07am to be exact. And the notation next to the item listed the delivery as paused at 12:15pm.


A time that hadn’t arrived yet. A time three hours in the future.

I did return home, and I did get my package. No worries, with everything fine and wonderful. But hold on for a moment.

Have you ever ordered or purchased something that came with a clock attached to it? Something like a waiver you signed that stated “…customer has 48-hours to return item for a refund…” as a condition. Shifting the idea away from packages, just for a moment consider that the official timestamp attached to some activity was wrong. Wrong, but official.

Many, many years ago, I purchased a product at an electronics store. Not wanting to start any trouble, since I use that company for many things and do like the products, let’s change the name of the company and say it was a popular item from the well-known Tangerine company. Because of my schedule at the time… and the receipt… I happen to know we were in the store making out purchase on December 31st.

About a month later, we had an issue with the product and I called to see if the warranty covered the problem. Didn’t expect it to be covered, but figured it was worth a shot. The representative on the phone insisted I had purchased it on December 5th.

While the damage wasn’t covered, which I had no issues with since I didn’t expect it to be covered, being told I had the wrong purchase date did upset me. I ended up calling the store and mentioned it to them. They informed me that December 5th was the day a shipment arrived at the store. Apparently… get ready, follow this logic… the items usually sold quickly, so they would log them as sold the day they arrived on property to trigger their request for a fresh order from the manufacturer. Since the customer had a receipt for the actual date, any issues could be resolved down the road, but they claimed I was the first person to ever call about a discrepancy.

Almost four weeks of warranty… POOF… gone because of a documentation practice at the store that had nothing to do with me.

We have auto-fill options for forms, password storage programs (that claim to have super-encrypted-proprietary safeguards), and all sorts of time-saving technological conveniences. But we can’t go on the web sites of most restaurants and see the menu unless it’s during business hours and the order-online software is active.

Time is what we make of it. How we use it. How we value it.

Technology is amazing, and delivers staggering opportunities.

But there are two sides to each. A behind the scenes, buyer beware, look at the fine print need for accountability and responsibility.

With refrigerators monitoring our shopping lists and phones unlocking our doors from three times zones away, it’s up to us to understand the opportunities and the limitations that accompany such marvels.

So, trust the clock on the stove. After all, you set it. Trust the clock on your nightstand. You set that. But every so often pay attention, just in case you’re heading toward being a few minutes late. Time and technology are not without imperfections.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com