Opinion | Tony Jones: Digital lift passes and my complicated relationship with my phone
I read in the Summit Daily News recently that Vail Resorts will be piloting a lift ticketing program that will use cellphones instead of physical passes for lift tickets. It seems like an innovative process designed to make lift access more convenient, and I’ve always got my phone in my pocket when I’m boarding anyways. It’s piping tunes into my helmet (yes, I’m one of those guys) and tracking my vertical. Of course, it’ll be a bummer if I forget the phone at home. I can always get a day on the slopes in without the music and run tracking, but not being able to get on the lift without my phone? That could be a problem.
We have an access system recently deployed at my work wherein your phone is your entry badge. This replaced a tried-and-true physical badge system. Hopefully the Vail system will work better than that new building entry system though, reliability has not been its hallmark. I often find myself waving my phone over the sensor as if I’m performing some arcane incantation to the technology gods, the sensors ignoring my attempts at entry, deciding how long it will wait today before granting me access. Meanwhile, people are lining up behind me tapping their feet in consternation as they wait for me get my body and phone gyrations just right. Many are, I’m sure, wondering if I’m an intruder with ill intent, trying to break into the building. Or maybe, they think, the IT guy is just plain incompetent with technology.
I can’t help but worry about how dependent we have become on our cellphones. It’s gotten to the point that you dare not go anywhere without yours lest you find yourself stranded in the lobby at work, or without your boarding pass at the terminal gate, or ticketless when boarding the commuter train. And what would I do with myself while I’m on the train with no newsfeed to crawl or podcasts to listen to? Look out the window at the scenery? Talk to the person next to me? Get real!
Many of us would be lost if we had to shop or bank the old-fashioned way. You know, drive to the store, or multiple stores, to find what you’re looking for. Braving traffic jams and over-commercialized FM radio so that you can hit the bank on the way back and stand in a line to check your balance or deposit a check. Those old ways seem so archaic, so 1990s, and just such a hassle.
Gone are the quaint old days when your phone was just a portable talking device that could give you directions and play your MP3s. Nowadays, if it’s not also tracking your exercise and sleep patterns and helping you ward off boredom with games, movies, music and podcasts, it might as well have a tangled curly cord attached to the wall.
Now, I’ll need it to get on the lift? Great. I think we already spend way too much time with our noses buried in our phones as it is, feeling somewhat lost if we forget them at home. And Siri is there to remind you just how much time you’re wasting, er, spending, immersed in cyberspace. She helpfully sends a report on a weekly basis that shows what your average time on the device has been and how much over that average you spent on it. It’s like she’s trying to guilt you into putting the phone down. But it seems that no matter how much you try to cut back on device time, technology and convenience are pushing just as hard, if not harder, in the opposite direction, making us ever more dependent on our pocket computers.
I’m no Luddite, but perhaps this has gone too far. Vail says that they will still issue physical passes for those who request them. Maybe I’ll take them up on that. But I’m going to have my phone in my pocket anyway, so that I can board to my favorite tunes, get a sweet pic of the killer pow, and check out how many runs I got in at day’s end. Aw, hell. Siri, download that Vail ticketing app, would you please?
Tony Jones' column "Everything in Moderation" publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Jones is a veteran of the IT industry and has worked in the public and private sectors. He lives part-time in Summit County and Denver. Contact him at email@example.com.
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