Once upon a time, you or I could be shocked with the encroachment of advertisements into more and more nooks and crannies of our lives. For me, the last time that occurred was in 1979 when I was talking to a Time circulation manager who was crowing about her experiment in putting blow cards into egg cartons. How lovely. Before you crack open an egg in the morning, lets think about signing up for the latest coverage of atrocities in the Middle East.
Since then, of course, the restroom stall has been invaded; people pay to have all kinds of companies put their logos on the shirts and hats they wear; and, the lease payment on the automobiles we drive can be covered by wrapping your means of locomotion in marketing clothes.
Similar ubiquity could be the bane of technology. There is no running or hiding. Or lifting.
Take an elevator ride in the Park Avenue Tower, for instance, and you will be presented with the latest news from Individual.com, The New York Times, Reuters and TrafficStation.com on a screen as youre moving. No need to spend the 90-second or 2-minute ride to your office trying to think through your business agenda for the day or getting to know the people you work with. You can put your mind on hold, instead of interacting.
Dont try to lose yourself in thought, conversation or the newspaper at the Sheraton Russell, a little further down on Park Avenue. At breakfast time, your ears and eyes will be greeted and grabbed by the insistent reporting on New York 1, the cable channel. Silence is not an option.
But its not just the screen thats becoming part of the Sheetrock of our lives. Determined entrepreneurs everywhere are trying to make your life easier by getting more microchips into your lives. And each idea is more brilliant than the last.
For the last five years, Ive been leaving packages on my doorstep most every day for one of the overnight delivery services to pick up. We have a silent pact. I leave you packages in one corner of the porch; and, when you pick those up, you leave yours in the same spot for me. Works just fine. No one can see whats on my porch from the street, anyway.
But now, Brivo Systems has me thinking Im a lost soul on the brink of career ruin. The 2-year-old Arlington, Va., company is marketing a Smart Box to put on your stoop that shames me. It is "Internet-enabled," and "makes sending and receiving packages at home as easy as ordering them online." It even alerts the owner if theres a package in it. Somehow, I guess this is an advance over ringing the doorbell, which all my delivery folks like to do.
Basically, the Smart Box seems to operate like an outdoor safe. Put in your package, lock it up and let a delivery outfit show up. But dont forget to give the express agent the entry code, or that package will stay locked in. How convenient. Makes sense if youre shipping diamonds or contraband, maybe. Not everyday packages, though. Think Ill save the $10 per month and several hundred dollars that the box would set me back. My concrete-and-brick corner will do just fine.
Maybe what Ill do is spend the money Ive saved where it counts, inside the house or on my person. Digital Cookware, I notice, is trying to sell me a smart skillet, so I never overcook anything. And I lust after a digital picture frame, if I can just figure out how to make the connection work with a Macintosh so I can distract myself with constantly changing images on my office wall. Now, even Timex is getting in on the game with an Internet watch. Eat your heart out, Dick Tracy. Im going to be checking my e-mail while youre still trying to sort out the static on your wrist radio.
At least I can do the e-mail thing in silence. Or let my sleeve down when I want to ignore the demands of the connected world.