How could a college student be anti-app? More and more of my friends at school are beginning to resent Twitter and Facebook, realizing that they may be far too attached to social media and other apps available by cellphone.
Need directions, a weather check, a pizza? There's an app for that.
At some point during my summer job last year, I, too, realized that perhaps smart phone apps are not always an advantage. I worked for a company charged with making parking meters a thing of the past in my hometown of Latrobe. We tried to convince local citizens that paying for parking by cellphone app is faster and easier. Why search for quarters to feed a meter when your touch screen can take care of it?
The parking app is a way to pay for a parking meter through your credit card with your cellphone, making meter maids and meter collectors obsolete and saving time and money for the municipality. You can even get a warning when time is about to expire so you can refill the meter from your phone.
As a college student, I should be all for allowing progress to simplify things. I should be the one tutoring my family on how to use these new contraptions. But somehow, I am not.
My town is, like most others in the Pittsburgh area, old-fashioned. The aging population holds on tightly to small-town roots and traditions, including not having everything automated. For some, it can mean refusing to own a cellphone. That state of mind has rubbed off on me.
People at parking lots in Latrobe were lost from the get-go with the new payment system. Either they didn't know how to use their cellphones, their credit cards wouldn't work or the charge for parking didn't come through, and when the parking authority came around to check the car the device mistakenly read that the car wasn't in the system, so the car was ticketed.
That then opened a whole new can of worms with disgruntled parkers angry about getting a ticket, one after another. Many shoppers and parkers wanted absolutely nothing to do with the service.
So something that was supposed to make life easier did nothing of the sort. All the while, I walked the streets of my hometown, smiled at passers-by I saw every day on my route in my vain attempts at selling the app, and kept my judgments to myself.
I understand the simplicity that comes from not looking for change or from being able to do everything from your mobile phone, but how hard is it to put money in a meter? With this new service we have to rely on a computer in God-knows-where to register a credit card and license plate. Then we have to have faith that the parking authority will receive this information electronically.
In Latrobe, many people are still hesitant to order products over the Internet for fear their credit card information might be stolen. This parking scenario is not all that different.
For decades drivers have had little problem remembering to feed their parking meters, among other responsibilities they have had to keep in mind with much less technology at their disposal. The big question is: How much are we willing to advance technology before we become completely dependent on it?
I've grown up seeing the massive boom in cassettes turn into a need for CDs followed by MP3s, along with the latest wave of TVs and phones and other upgrades, and things are moving exponentially faster now. We need constant entertainment, and everything, including books, has to be digitized.
Maybe we are getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe we should take a page out of Thoreau and just enjoy nature and little things in life and treat parking for what it is: a kind of paid rest stop. Maybe it's a time to take a deep breath and come up with a quarter to fund 15 minutes of staying in the same place.
Is there an app for that?
The PG Portfolio welcomes "Local Dispatch" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to email@example.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.
La Roche College student Nate Marsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.