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Has Technology Made Us Careless?
A guy steps up to the check-in counter in the Toronto airport and says to the attendant “Good morning! Could you please check me in on the flight to Winnipeg and send my bag to Cancun!”. Though a bit surprised by the request, the woman behind the counter responds politely “I’m sorry sir. I can certainly check you in on your flight to Winnipeg but your bag will have to go with you. I can’t send your bag to Cancun”. The gentleman grins and replies “But you did it last time!”.
I wish I could tell you this is just a funny story-which it is. Unfortunately, though, it is based on a true experience. My family including myself, my husband, and 3 kids recently travelled from Toronto to Winnipeg. Generally I’m more relaxed travelling on domestic flights-with no borders to cross and no customs to go through. Things usually go quite smoothly with the odd flight delay or flight cancellation.
The morning of our flight to Winnipeg I checked my email and discovered the flight was delayed about an hour-no big deal. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare.
Anyone who has travelled recently knows how much things have changed over the past few years. Most of the process is now deferred to the “customer”. I’m waiting for the day when someone tells me I have to fly the plane myself!
Anyways, I checked us all in online the night before and printed out all the boarding passes. When we arrived at the airport I used the self-serve terminal to print out our baggage tags and we applied the tags to our bags ourselves. In all honesty, there really wasn’t much left for the airport staff to do. We moved quickly through the baggage check line and handed off all 5 bags together. We later boarded the plane and about 2-1/2 hours later we landed in Winnipeg. So far so good.
Winnipeg recently built a brand new high-tech airport. We proceeded to baggage claim and positioned ourselves close to where the bags were coming off the carousel.
Four of our bags appeared quite quickly. Then we waited. My son who often takes advantage of opportunities to tease his kid sister jokingly said “Your bag went to Cancun!”. We really did think it was a joke at the time but when we saw the light flash indicating there were no more bags to follow we started to wonder just what had happened to the missing suitcase.
To make a long story short we ended up filing a “missing suitcase” report and left the airport with 4 out of 5 bags. My 10-year old daughter was upset but actually handled the situation remarkably well. I was thankful that the missing suitcase was hers and not my 17-year old daughter’s or husband’s! It wasn’t until late that evening that we discovered her suitcase was sent to Cancun! We were told that it would be on a plane to Toronto the next morning and then routed to Winnipeg. We could either pick it up or arrange to have it delivered to where we were staying.
In our conversations that day I recalled sending my mom a parcel from Toronto to Winnipeg and it somehow ended up in Halifax! The next day we did not receive a phone call. I followed up late in the morning and was told the suitcase did not arrive in Toronto or Winnipeg. At the time they did not know where it was… It wasn’t until 6:30pm of our 2nd day that we were told the suitcase was finally located in Halifax!
I was assured that it would be routed to Toronto the next day and then on to Winnipeg. At this point I didn’t know what to believe but we all agreed not to talk about any more distant travel destinations! Fortunately, we did receive a call the next day that the bag was in the Winnipeg airport. We made arrangements to have it delivered to the cottage we were staying at about 1-1/2 hours outside of Winnipeg. We had the suitcase that evening.
This incident made me wonder. How could something like this possibly happen in this day and age of technology?
There’s no question that technology has improved our lives in numerous ways and automated many routine processes. However, it still has its limitations. If humans are involved then so is human error. Somewhere along the way my daughter’s suitcase was handled by a human and misplaced even though it was clearly tagged with an electronically generated baggage tag that displayed the airport code for Winnipeg.
Often you’ll hear people say “I’m only human. I make mistakes”. That is precisely why we still have a need for checking our work. To some extent technology has made us careless. It’s given us a false sense of security and we forget that we are only using tools.
A spell checker is a perfect example. It is limited in terms of the errors it can catch.
I can remember years ago when I used to type essays on an electric typewriter. I was so careful not to make a mistake-knowing that it meant I’d have to erase and re-type any error. If I erased too hard it would make a hole in the paper or a smudge-which meant I’d have to re-type the entire page. If there was carbon paper in between (to make a copy) it compounded the problem even more! We’ve come a long way with computers and keyboards but I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve become a sloppy typist and have come to heavily rely on the “Backspace” and “Delete” keys!
One thing I have learned over the years is the importance of double-checking my work. Whether it’s a detailed document or a short email I habitually re-read what I write several times before sending it.
Technology has made it easy for us to relax and make mistakes. In the suitcase example mistakes resulted in aggravation, inconvenience and money and time wasted. Fortunately, these mistakes were relatively small and had temporary effects.
Too often, however, mistakes lead to costly and sometimes devastating results.
Technology has its limitations. Take a few extra minutes and double-check!
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