Missing the Obvious

I like to travel by train. I have some friends on a convenient train route that I visit from time to time. In the US, Amtrak an app you can use to buy and display your train ticket. I enjoy it, but oh my word is the connection slow sometimes. I am not always sure of being able to pull up the ticket on time and on demand.

For many years, I have gone ahead and printed the ticket instead “Just in case.”

I was traveling by train this weekend when I had an “I am an idiot” moment.

You see, most smartphones (mine included) can take a screenshot. You know, an image stored on your phone and not subject to the inconsistencies of connection? Simple logic tells you that the ticket is actually that QR code and that this is merely an image, right?

I do not want to admit how many years I have been printing tickets as a backup. When the obvious hit me, I felt very silly, indeed. (Not about being a belt and suspenders sort, mind. I am okay with that character trait)

I tell this story to put a point out there. Now, my job is to explore new technology, teach how to use available tools, and help people manage the new options and ways to do things in their lives. That is literally my job, and even I miss stuff sometimes.

Partially it is simply because there’s so available to you. Anyone can get used to a routine and not think about the alternative options. No-one can know everything. For me, this was a nudge that I was getting complacent and need to monkey with things more. Your lesson might be different, as it is probably not your job to poke buttons, dive for cover, and tell people about it after the dust settles.

Since that likely isn’t your job, don’t feel too bad when someone grabs a device, punches a few buttons and hands you a solution that seems obvious when you look at it. All of us get into mental ruts sometimes, and we do need to jar ourselves out of it.

On the other hand, exploration is good. A bit of monkeying and thinking about alternatives as you use technology is a grand human tradition dating back to the first time one of our ancestors deliberately put a bit of meat on a stick to burn it. You may not always have time, but it is a good idea to run with the urge when you can.

Author: Noël Figart

Noël Figart is a computer applications instructor, technical writer and editor.

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