At the next exit, bear right and sort your socks

When they invented GPS my wife warned me that if I relied on technology to get around, my brain would atrophy. I knew she was crazy so I ignored her advice and today I can’t get from Marini Farm to Hood Pond without the disembodied voice of a young woman rising up from my phone to guide me.

Technology is a blessing and a curse, at least this is what I’ve heard, but for the most part I’ve experienced the blessings and seem to have avoided anything curse-like. I don’t believe I really needed the part of my brain that has atrophied. If my wife is in the car and I’m ashamed to use Siri, it’s not a problem because my wife is right there to navigate me from Marini Farm to Hood Pond.

Maybe when people speak of the curse of technology they’re just misinterpreting a blessing as a curse — like when one technological blessing overlaps another technological blessing, causing complications.

For example:

My iPhone has a timer function, so I can move a load of laundry from the washer to the drier and ask the phone to notify me in exactly 38 minutes. This is an urgently important feature of my iPhone because you have to pull the laundry out exactly on time in order to avoid wrinkling, and it’s absolutely essential to avoid wrinkling because I have never lifted an iron in my life, and I don’t intend to start now. Grab the laundry the moment it’s ready and hang it up and call it good enough; that’s my strategy. If I show up for a lunch date with you and I appear a bit disheveled, let’s just say I have a “world-weary writer look,” okay? There have been lots of world-weary writers down through history; some have even won Pulitzers. So I’d say I’m in good company.

The iPhone can also be programmed to alert me about recurring events. My daughter needs a ride home every weekday from her candy-making job at Winfrey’s? No problem. The phone reminds me every day, I’m there waiting on the parking lot when she comes out the door, and week by week I’m accumulating a mountain of points for being Superdad.

Yesterday, however, the blessings of technology overlapped in a most unfortunate way. My daughter-pickup alert went off, I zipped out to the garage and jumped in the car — but at that very moment, the laundry-moving alert also went off.

I bolted back into the house, then paused a moment, trapped between two terrible options. Which is worse? Leaving your laundry in the drier to grow cold and crusty, wrinkled beyond repair? Or confronting the pinched scowl of disappointment on your daughter’s face after you’ve stranded her at the chocolate factory?

But it took me only a second or two to make a bold, shrewd choice: Text Mommy, who was elsewhere on the road, and ask her to pick up our daughter. (I knew she’d know how to get there, Siri be damned.)

In the laundry room, I rescued my precious laundry, raced it to my bedroom closet, and began hanging things on hangers with a deftness born of years’ experience. I was intensely focused. Every second counts in this process; wrinkles will begin disfiguring the fabric within a few scant moments.

As I finished the task, I breathed a satisfied sigh of relief and triumph: another laundry-day victory, another week of the ironing board gathering dust.

Then I headed back to my work, smugly resuming my role as a major American writer.

After a while, I heard the back door slam.


Even in this single syllable, I sensed an edge of snideness.

“Why is the garage door up — and the car running — with the driver door standing wide open?”

I gulped and groped for an answer that would preserve my dignity.

“Technology,” I finally muttered. “Technology is a curse.”

Doug Brendel stays close to his home on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, because wandering too far with no sense of direction can be deadly. Follow Doug, perhaps for his own safety, by clicking “Follow” here at

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