Towards a non-personal world


When six-year-olds are doing their homework on computers, when 10-year-olds expect a new mobile phone for-their next birthday and when everyone seems to send e-mail messages to family and friends, why am I still using a fountain pen to write letters to my daughters and using film in my camera instead of memory sticks?

"Because you are old-fashioned!" would be the obvious response from the majority of people asked this question. But, I love innovations. I embrace the sophisticated onboard in-flight entertainment systems - and I can actually operate them without any problems, which I have noticed several airline passengers are unable to manage.
I love progress. Although I fondly recall the 'good old days' of Bahrain and Dubai, when they moved at a much more leisurely pace, I think, it is marvellous that there are now superb golf courses, water theme parks, indoor ski resort and a mindboggling selection of coffee houses.
Yet I do not think it reasonable to expect to change every thing in order to survive in the modern world we live in today.
Maybe I am a member of a dwindling few, who actually enjoy writing letters on real paper with a proper pen - to me it seems much more personal. I cannot express my innermost thoughts on a computer.
It all seems so machine-like, a George Orwell Animal Farm scenario in which we feed information into a gigantic brain, which then spits it out into' many different channels., one of which reaches out and  informs the recipient that a letter is waiting. I enjoy thinking of the postman delivering my letter and my friend opening it, as she savours her morning croissant and coffee.
It is a similar situation concerning my computer. Of course I have one, doesn't everybody? Yet I am writing this column on a good old-fashioned typewriter, I like to feel the pressure of the keys under my fingers and I check the spelling myself, not via some alien-type spell-check., which happens to be American English anyway on my computer.
This one is an electric typewriter, but my husband has three manual typewriters in our house in Cyprus, which he uses, when we are staying there. It has admittedly become quite difficult to find typewriter ribbons, but he keeps persisting and so far has managed to keep the machine working.
My husband also has a touch of traditionalism. After all, he prefers to frequent the same cafes and restaurants in Paphos and we always climb up the hill to start our visit to Lincoln at the many antique shops in the shadow of the magnificent Lincoln Cathedral, recently featured in the Da Vinci Code movie.
Mind you, I am the one, who drags him into the charity shops in the Lincolshire towns and always into the art galleries, whether it is at the Majlis Gallery in the lovely old part of Dubai, which still survives, or the wrought-iron. gate-guarded shop-cum-gallery in downtown Cape Town, where we bought a superb painting of oh-so-yellow lemons.
Tradition is an important part of the travel and tourism industry. Why do hotels become popular? Because their management ensure the important details are taken care of by their staff the remembering of your name, the chocolate on the pillow, the extra pillows, your favourite newspaper. When you check in to such a quality hostelry, you just know/that you are going back to familiar territory. YOU are a repeat customer or in other words their bread and butter trade.
Traditional festivals and events are all part of the attractions of many holiday destinations around the world and provide the colourful images in brochures to tempt would-be travellers.
With the exception of one or two cities on the globe, like New York and possibly Kuala Lumpur, very few destinations feature high-rise buildings as a 'temptation' to lure vacationers, rather they look at the surviving arts and crafts, ancient dance routines, folklore… these are the bait for the holidaymakers paradoxically looking for something new and original.
I think that one of my problems in readily accepting all the new electronically-powered amenities is that most of them seem to dehumanise the world — modernity today seems to mean a lack of personal service, the personal touch has gone missing.
I checked into a hotel in London recently. The TV was already switched on and when I glanced at the screen, there was the message: "Welcome Jonna Simon". Quite nice, I guess, but I still prefer the hotel, where the staff give me a genuine welcome. In the room, there were special plugs and other paraphenalia for laptop connections, but I could not find the kettle and teapot, which used to be provided together with a packet of biscuits. Space had needed to be prioritised and you don't make money on free pots of tea.
Everything seems to be heading towards a non-personal world. At Dubai International Airport, the number of check-in kiosks have increased. Passengers punch a few buttons and hey presto they have a boarding card. Travellers can also check-in' from their homes and print out their own e-ticket. No need to stand in queues.
I imagine in the future, we will take a train like the ones ordered' for the new rail-system in Dubai, which will have no driver, but will work automatically (The Inter-Terminal Express at Gatwick Airport already operates this way).
We will check-in on another machine, arrive at the aircraft and a pre-recorded message will tell us to fasten our seat belts. Then we wi ll probably fly in a pilotless plane, shudder the thought! I am really glad, that I will be too old to be able to experience this 'Future World’.
Back to the present, where we are just about to start receiving TV programmes on our mobile phones, the Fourth Generation, which will have an important impact of saving us time, so 'they' say, while we are shopping and doing our chores.
However, I am happy to report that in 2006 books are still popular and I will now choose to settle down with a favourite novel or biography, shutting out the cacophony of mobiles blaring out advertising messages to a frantic world, which is moving too fast for some of us.

Speaking Out by Jonna Simon