Cell Phones & Cars in an Alternate Universe




Cell Phones & Cars in an Alternate Universe


Monday, Jan 23, 2012 by Max Mindel

Cell Phones & Cars in a Alternate Universe

Let’s imagine for a few minutes that we live in a very different world.  In the USA, we drive on the left side of the road, and in England, they drive on the right.  Most people are left-handed.  The earth is tilted in the opposite direction, so summer in the northern hemisphere starts in mid- January, and in mid-July in the South.  Let me describe to you a typical day in the life of one of the inhabitants of this Earth in this alternate universe.

It was a chilly day in Los Angeles as it typically is in August.  I woke up at exactly 6am.  I always do, thanks to my smartphone.  I got rid of my alarm clock a year ago after I realized I wasn’t using it anymore.  I had a busy day ahead of me and lots of phone calls to make; the most important of which was a conference call with a key client in the early evening.  Normally, I would take a call of this importance in my office, but I had a dinner meeting an hour away from my office that I had to be at by 7pm, so this is a call I was going to have to make from my car on the way to that meeting.

I sat on my bed staring out my window at the gray sky and the frost on the hills of the Santa Monica Mountains knowing that I’d have to bundle up a bit today.  I live deep inside Topanga Canyon. It’s still in Los Angeles, but it’s in-between Malibu beach, and the San Fernando Valley, so it gives me a more rural-feeling and nature-surrounded lifestyle while still living in a major city. 

I took a soothing warm shower, noticed I was almost out of shampoo, and got dressed.  I then sat in front of my computer to check my email and pay a few bills while enjoying a bowl of oatmeal.   Like most people, I pay all my bills online.  I opened up my electric bill.   We receive and pay that bill every two months, so I thought I’d notice an increase since my daughter just got her drivers license and a new car a couple of months ago; so now we have another car to charge in our family.  The electric bill did seem a little higher, but it’s hard to notice an extra $30.00 in our bill.  Perhaps I’ll notice it more the day she starts driving more.  I use about $30 per month to drive, but right now she only drives to school, so it only costs us $15 per month for the use of electricity for her driving.  The cost of driving is still one of the bargains of our time.

After paying some bills and replying to all my emails, I headed to my garage, unplugged the charging cable from my car, and began my morning commute to my office in Century City, as I do every morning, with a fully charged vehicle.  I never take for granted knowing that every morning, I wake up to a full range of 160 miles, even though my office is only 30 miles away.  Unfortunately though, traffic is a reality of life in Los Angeles, and so is my 1-hour commute, so it’s a good thing that cars don’t use any electricity when they’re not moving!  Traffic was particularly slow this morning.  So after not moving for 15 minutes, I thought I’d pass the time away by calling my father from my cell phone.  He had some recent health problems so I wanted to check up on him.  As he picked up, I said “Hi Daddy!”.  He answered, “Hello sunshine”, like he always did.  Every time he called me “sunshine”, it always reminded me of what a great childhood I had and what good fortune I had to have him as a father.  He told me about his problems and how the doctors were taking care of him.   We talked about Julie, his granddaughter; my daughter.  He was telling me how concerned he was that she started already driving at the age of 17.  Anyway, that 1-hour commute turned into almost a 2-hour commute, but that morning it felt like 5 minutes.  Boy that was a long phone call!

I pulled into my parking spot, got out of my car, and plugged it in.   As I got in the elevator, I greeted some of the same people I see often in the morning, even though I admit I can’t always remember their names.  I headed towards my office, grabbing a fresh cup of coffee on the way, and sat down to begin my day.   I made my phone calls, crunched some numbers, worked on a couple of proposals, and before I knew it, it was time for lunch!  I headed out for my usual salad at Salads ‘n More and wolfed-down my candied walnut & gorgonzola cheese salad.  Boy was I hungry, and I finished lunch fast.  That was a good thing because I still needed time to pick up some shampoo and conditioner, and... hmmm, one other thing, but never mind, since I couldn’t remember.  Anyway, the rest of the work day went by quickly because I was very immersed in preparing for my early evening phone call.

Wow, where did the time go?  It was already 5:15pm, so I headed down the elevator to my car and began to drive.  I rehearsed my points in my mind and before I knew it, it was 5:30pm, so I dialed the call-in number on my smartphone and joined the call.  “Hello”, this is Diane Wilkins from Los Angeles”, I announced.  The meeting organizer walked us through the agenda, and as I expected, my turn to present our company’s position would be towards the end of the call.  It seemed like an eternity, but by 5:55pm someone said, “ok Diane, why don’t you go ahead and share your thoughts.”   As I began to speak, I heard a familiar sound that couldn’t have come at a worst time.   My phone “chirped” and flashed the message “low fuel”.  I felt a deep clenching feeling in my stomach.  I had to find a gas station, and quick.  However, I knew being that I was on Pacific Coast Highway, where gas stations are far and few, that my phone would run out of gas long before I could find a gas station to refuel it.  At that moment I sighed and thought how much I love that my cell phone lasts for 5 days before I have to gas it up again, but I sure wish that it worked like my car, where I could refuel it from home and have a full tank every morning to give me 100% of the talk time available in the beginning of every single day. 

I had no choice but to go through the embarrassment of apologizing and excusing myself from the call before I could even share a single thought.  Thankfully, I had those few seconds to at least do that, because as I muttered my last three words, “...please excuse me”, my smartphone went completely dead. 

So what’s the moral of this story?  If someone took away your ability to recharge your cell phone at home overnight, and the ability to wake up with a fully-charged phone every single morning, it would surely become a less convenient and less reliable device.  However, we’ve accepted that inconvenience with the way we fuel our cars for the last 100 years.  We drive around watching our fuel gauges to make sure we always have fuel to make our daily trips.  It really is very inconvenient but we’ve accepted it because that’s that they way it’s been.  Have you ever run out of gas?  I have.  Depending on where you are and the time of day when it happens, it can be a very dangerous proposition. 

Perhaps you think that a range of only 160 miles in an electric car would increase your likelihood of running out of fuel, or in this case, battery charge.  But with a full 160 miles of range in the beginning of every day, and with the average US commute of 19 miles in each direction, for the majority of us, that’s highly unlikely.  When’s the last time you drove comfortably with only a 1/4 tank of gas in your car?  That typically gives you a range of only 50 miles. 

We’ve already trained ourselves to charge our cell phones every day, so charging your car everyday, would be a no-brainer.

Listening to music on a CD was once thought to be the most convenient way of having a music listening experience.  That changed when people saw the value in carrying their entire music collections in the palm of their hand.  One day, people will talk about the day when people could not refuel/recharge their cars at home.  This will be a story grandparents will tell their grandkids.

When that happens, our world will have changed, and we will be heading towards a time of great improvement for our lives, our environment and our planet.