In 1986, Chris was traveling in Europe. He wanted to meet up with his college friend Rob, who had been living in Germany, Italy, and Egypt for several years. It was a pre-cell-phone era. Pre-email. Pre-text-messaging. Even pre-fax. And so Chris and Rob communicated old-school, by occasional phone call and letter. In August, a postcard arrived from Sweden at Chris’s travel HQ, his aunt and uncle’s house in London. Brief and to the point, it said:

“Meet me in Amsterdam over Labor Day Weekend. Rob.”

Chris packed a bag and went off to Holland. He checked into a cheap floating hostelry, inquired where the bar scene was, and went off in search of Rob,. AND HE FOUND HIM. QUICKLY. To me, the miracle is that they didn’t keep missing each other. How easy it would have been for Rob to have left a bar minutes before Chris arrived. This could have happened repeatedly. And yet everything worked out.

Now we have cell phones. They are both a boon and a curse.

A boon because we can call or text someone instantly to say “I love you” or “I’m at the Acme, did you say Cheezits or Cheetos?”

A curse because, as a friend says, we’re raising an entire generation of kids who can’t think on their feet. They never get lost, or at least never have to find their own way, because they just text for clarification on directions. They never infuriate someone by failing to meet up with them, because if the train is late – if they fall and break their arm – if their car runs out of gas – they simply call and explain. College students call their parents, in many cases, every day – or multiple times a day, just to say hi and report what they had for breakfast. How will the apron strings ever be cut?

Those old movies about lovers not meeting each other at the Empire State Building, or missing each other in St. Petersburg, or not turning up at the crucial family dinner? All toast. Such plot twists would seem like science fiction to anyone under 30.

In many ways, obviously, technology is fabulous. I personally don’t miss those moments of pre-cell-phone heart-pounding anxiety in a horrendous traffic jam heading into the city for a 9 AM meeting, knowing I’m going to be terribly late. (Fun fact: my telephone engineer dad had a car phone in the 1970s which transformed his company sedan into something like the Batmobile. However, it was ahead of its time and barely worked).

As fun and useful as it is, will technology mean that ingenuity is, figuratively speaking, bred out of the human race? I can’t help but feel that we’ve lost some of the challenge and romance of life.

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