Has technology made us careless?

A guy walks up to the check-in counter at the Toronto airport and says to the attendant, “Good morning! Could I check in for the flight to Winnipeg and have my luggage shipped to Cancun?” Although a bit surprised by the request, the woman behind the counter politely replies, “I’m sorry, sir. I can certainly check you in for your flight to Winnipeg, but your bag will have to go with you. I can’t send your bag.” to Cancun.” The gentleman smiles and replies “But you did it last time!”

I wish I could tell you that this is just a funny story, and it is. Unfortunately, however, it is based on real experience. My family, including myself, husband and 3 children, recently traveled from Toronto to Winnipeg. I’m usually more relaxed traveling on domestic flights, with no borders to cross and no customs to clear. Things usually go pretty well with the odd flight delay or cancellation.

The morning of our flight to Winnipeg I checked my email and found that the flight was delayed for about an hour, not a big deal. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time.

Anyone who has traveled recently knows how much things have changed in recent years. Most of the processing is now delegated to the “client”. I’m waiting for the day when someone tells me I have to fly the plane myself!

Anyway, 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-service terminal to print our bag tags and we applied them ourselves. Honestly, there wasn’t much left for the airport staff to do. We quickly went through the baggage control line and delivered 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 new, high-tech airport. We proceeded to baggage claim and positioned ourselves near where the bags came off the carousel.

Four of our bags turned up pretty quickly. So we wait. My son, who often takes opportunities to make fun of his little sister, jokingly said, “Your bag went to Cancun!” We really thought it was a joke at the time, but when we saw the light blink indicating there were no more bags to go on, we started to wonder what had happened to the missing bag.

To make a long story short, we ended up filing a “lost bag” report and left the airport with 4 out of 5 bags. My 10 year old daughter was upset but she actually handled the situation very well. I was thankful that the lost suitcase was hers and not my 17 year old daughter or my husband! It wasn’t until late that night that we found out that her suitcase had been sent to Cancun! We were told that she would be on a plane to Toronto the next morning and then on to Winnipeg. We could pick it up or arrange to have it delivered to where we were staying.

In our conversations that day, I remembered sending my mom a package 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 bag hadn’t made it to Toronto or Winnipeg. They didn’t know where it was at the time… It wasn’t until 6:30pm on our second day that we were told the bag was finally in Halifax!

They assured me that it would be sent to Toronto the next day and then to Winnipeg. At this point, I didn’t know what to believe, but we all agreed not to talk about any further travel destinations! Fortunately, we received a call the next day that the bag was at the Winnipeg airport. We arranged to have it delivered to the cabin we were staying in about 1-1/2 hours outside of Winnipeg. We had the suitcase that night.

This incident made me doubt. How could something like this happen in this age of technology?

There is no doubt that technology has improved our lives in many ways and has automated many routine processes. However, it still has its limitations. If humans are involved, so is human error. Somewhere along the way, a human tampered with my daughter’s suitcase and misplaced it even though she was clearly tagged with an electronically generated luggage tag displaying the Winnipeg airport code.

You’ll often hear people say, “I’m only human. I make mistakes.” This is precisely why we still have the need to check our work. To some extent, technology has made us careless. It has given us a false sense of security and we forget that we are only using tools.

A spell checker is a perfect example. You are limited in the errors that you 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 would have to erase and rewrite any mistakes. If you erased too hard, you would put a hole in the paper or a smudge, which meant you would have to rewrite the entire page. If there was carbon paper in the middle (to make a copy) it made the problem even more complicated! 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 rely heavily 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 often reread 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 hassle, inconvenience, and wasted time and money. Fortunately, these bugs were relatively small and had temporary effects.

All too often, however, mistakes lead to costly and sometimes devastating results.

Technology has its limitations. Take a few more minutes and check again!

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