Technology is hazardous to your health.
I don’t mean the obvious and well-publicized risks we all hear about, such as driving 75 mph down a busy highway while arguing with your significant other on your cell phone. No, I’m talking about plain, old-fashioned physical danger.
Such as the time a few years ago, when my work included installing and supporting computers and networks, and I developed a persistent pain in my left elbow. The doctor diagnosed it as inflammation but had no idea of the cause. Eventually, I figured out that it was the result of sitting at my desk for long periods of time with the phone to my ear, leaning on my elbow, while I waited for a computer technician. I had "tech support elbow"—the 21st Century equivalent to "housemaid’s knee."
Much more recently, we nearly had a house fire, not from the old-fashioned wood stove or a carelessly placed candle, but from the brand new microwave oven. It seems that someone, who shall remain nameless—confession may be good for the soul, but public humiliation is not—put a frozen breakfast burrito in the microwave, set the time for 3.33 minutes and the power for 25%, and went off to get dressed. Unfortunately, the power button wasn’t pressed firmly enough to register with the microwave’s little electronic brain, so what the oven did was add 25 to 3.33 and come up with a time of 333.25 minutes at full power.
When said anonymous person came back to the kitchen six or seven minutes later, the microwave, filled with black smoke, was still industriously working on the cremains of the burrito. It took a day and a half to air out the house. Now, two weeks later, every time we open the microwave, we get a strong olfactory reminder of re-re-refried beans.
Then there was my near-concussion on the prairies of Wyoming a few weeks ago. Traveling on a cold, windy day, we stopped at a rest area, and I didn’t bother to put on my coat for the quick trip into the building. When I came out, I made a dash for the warm car. Without even slowing down, I clicked the button to unlock the car, yanked the door open—and slammed it into my forehead. I thought seeing stars only happened in cartoons. Not so. I had a tender, greenish-purple lump on my forehead for three days.
You may argue that this was the result more of awkwardness than technology. I disagree. This would not have happened except for the push-button door opener. Without it, I would have had to stop, put the key into the lock, turn it, and then open the door—all of which would have slowed me down sufficiently so I wouldn’t have hit myself with the door. That has to be case; such an embarrassingly clumsy accident certainly couldn’t have been my fault.
The strongest reminder of the dangers of technology, however, was demonstrated last week by an acquaintance who showed up at a meeting with a black eye. It was a classic, unmistakable shiner. And how did he get it? He doesn’t practice martial arts. He didn’t walk into a door in the middle of the night. He hit himself in the eye with his cell phone.
There you have it. Vivid proof, in blue-black and white. Technology is dangerous.