All aboard — or not

Even though the geniuses at the Apple store may dispute this, I am capable of embracing new technology. I didn’t say I would actually do it. I also didn’t say I would be good at it. I merely stated it is within my admittedly limited techno-adventurousness to try it. Why just last week, I downloaded an airline boarding pass onto my phone. I fully realize people have been downloading boarding passes onto their phones since 10 Y.I.S.J.E. (that’s 10 Years Into the Steve Jobs Era).

Until recently I was not one of those people. My phone has a habit of turning on me at the most inconvenient times. It just seemed like tempting fate to trust my airline ticket to such a device. I could just hear all sorts of alarms and sirens going off when I tried to board a flight with what used to be a legitimate boarding pass but my cantankerous phone had turned into a Kroger coupon. When alarms go off at an airport, the TSA often gets involved. I do not care to get any more well-acquainted with the TSA. I have two fake knees and a fake right shoulder and I make that scanner thing light up like Times Square. I have had dates that didn’t go as far as the ensuing pat downs. The pat downs (a.k.a. gropes) make me laugh. The agents always ask me if I want a private screening. Here is my answer to being in a closed room containing myself and a person in uniform wearing rubber gloves: thank you, no. One TSA agent ran the hand-held scanner over me for about five minutes after it continued to screech the alarm. I think she was on the brink of asking me to remove my two fake knees when she realized she was running the metal detector over her own watch. I tell you I never felt so safe. I finally did join the twenty-first century and put my boarding pass on my phone. But I printed a back-up just in case.

What makes me feel not-so-safe is an article I noticed about a gadget show. That’s what the headline said: gadget show. My newly-found confidence in my phone led me to read on about anther invention due to undergo testing sometime this year. Uber and Hyundai have joined forces to develop a fleet of flying taxis. But wait, as they say on late-night TV, there’s more. In the initial stages, the flying taxis, which will carry up to four passengers, will have pilots. This seems like an excellent idea. However, the goal is to eventually use flying taxis without pilots. I am not making this up. On the surface this sounds crazy. But if you delve into it a little deeper, this sounds crazy. Mid-air collisions are, small mercies, relatively rare. To quote Bill Bryson, though, as he spoke about bear attacks, once would be quite enough. I have seen the countenances of people playing video games. After just a little while, their eyes glaze over and they go into some sort of techo-trance. This is not, I repeat not, the person you want in charge of your flight.

The taxis will be electric and will have a range of around sixty miles. Because of their projected use in congested areas, they will take off and land vertically. They will zip around at speeds up to one hundred 80 miles per hour, just like taxis currently in use.

For the truly adventurous, those who do not get enough of a thrill having intimate encounters with government authorities or being aloft in a sky full of drones operated by zombies, there is the edgiest proposal of all. For complete exposure to the riskiest behavior possible, try depending on a robot to bring you toilet paper. Many couples reading this will think, “It’s a better bet than depending on my spouse” but still … I realize this sounds indelicate but as a colleague once told me about medical specialties, the less glamour a specialty has, the more good it does mankind.

The unhappy truth is, people are not always diligent about replacing toilet paper in a timely manner. Or at all. It’s this inattention to detail that led the forward thinkers at Procter and Gamble to say, “Hey. Even though people are dying of dreadful diseases and our wet wipes aren’t really flushable like it says on the label, let’s concentrate a large portion of our resources on making a robot to being toilet paper to the previously, not to mention desperately, stranded.

Late Note: Well, it’s happening. A German company has raised eighty-seven million Euros ($94 million) as it is developing a pilot-less electric air taxi. Another German company has raised $100 million towards the same end. Boeing, which should know better (how about you fix the 737 Max?), has developed a prototype and Airbus has joined the fray. Apparently, some people think this is an idea that will, well, fly. Just one question remains to be answered: are they still going to charge extra for a window seat?