Has Technology Made Us Careless?

A guy walks into a Toronto airport check-in desk and says to the attendant “Good morning! Could you check me in for a flight to Winnipeg and send my bag to Cancun!”. Although the woman behind the counter is a little surprised by the request, she politely replies, “Excuse me, sir. I can certainly check you in on a flight to Winnipeg, but your bag must be brought along. I can’t send your bag to Cancun”. The gentleman grins and replies “But you did last time!”.

I wish I could tell you that this is just a funny story – which it is. Unfortunately, however, it is based on real experience. My family, including me, my husband and 3 kids, recently traveled from Toronto to Winnipeg. I’m usually more relaxed when traveling on domestic flights – without crossing borders or customs. Things usually go pretty smoothly with the odd flight delay or cancellation.

On the morning of our flight to Winnipeg, I checked my email and saw that the flight was about an hour late – no big deal. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time.

Anyone who has traveled recently knows how much things have changed over the last few years. Most of the process is now transferred to the “customer”. I’m waiting for the day someone tells me I have to fly 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 printed out our baggage tags from the self-service terminal and attached the tags to our bags ourselves. To be honest, the airport staff didn’t really have much to do. We quickly walked through the baggage check line and dropped off all 5 bags together. We later boarded the plane and about 2-1/2 hours later landed in Winnipeg. So far so good.

Winnipeg recently built a brand new high-tech airport. We continued with baggage claim and settled near where the bags came off the carousel.

Our four bags showed up pretty quickly. Then we waited. My son, who often takes opportunities to tease his nephew, jokingly said “your bag went to Cancun!”. We really thought it was a joke at the time, but when we saw the light flashing, indicating that there were no more bags in the tail, we began to wonder what had happened to the missing suitcase.

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 shocked but actually handled the situation very well. I was thankful that the lost suitcase was hers and not my 17 year old daughter’s or my husband’s! It wasn’t until late that night that we found out that her suitcase was being sent to Cancun! We were told it would be on a plane to Toronto the next morning and then diverted to Winnipeg. We could either pick it up or arrange for it to be delivered to our accommodation.

In our conversations that day, I remembered sending my mom a package from Toronto to Winnipeg and somehow it ended up in Halifax! The next day we didn’t get a call. I followed up late in the morning and was told that the suitcase did not arrive in Toronto or Winnipeg. At the time they didn’t know where it was… It wasn’t until 6.30pm on the second day that we were told the suitcase was finally in Halifax!

I was assured it would be diverted 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 far away destinations! Luckily we got a call the next day that the bag was at the Winnipeg airport. We arranged for it to be delivered to the cabin we were staying at about 1-1/2 hours outside of Winnipeg. We had a suitcase that night.

This incident made me wonder. How can something like this happen in this age of technology?

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

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

Proofreading is a perfect example. It is limited in terms of the errors it can get.

I remember years ago when I used to write essays on an electronic typewriter. I was so careful not to make a mistake – I knew that meant I had to delete and retype all the mistakes. If I wiped too hard, it made a hole or smudge in the paper, which meant I had to rewrite the whole page. If there was carbon paper in between (for copying) it made the problem even worse! 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’ve learned over the years is the importance of double-checking my work. Whether it’s a detailed document or a short email, I usually re-read what I’ve written several times before sending it.

Technology has made it easy for us to relax and make mistakes. In the suitcase example, mistakes led to aggravation, inconvenience and wasted money and time. Fortunately, these errors were relatively minor and had temporary effects.

Too often, however, mistakes lead to costly and sometimes disastrous results.

Technology has its limitations. Take a few extra minutes and check it out!

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