It was a busy day not unlike a myriad of other busy days. Patients come and go with injuries and ailments, most hopefully receiving care that will provide a benefit somewhere along the way. Most of these people pass the time in the waiting room or examination room the old-fashioned way, with a magazine long since expired. Sometimes there are recipes from holidays long past that still offer value. Sometimes there are stories of a timeless nature that help to pass the time between blood pressures and bunion exams. Most of the magazines present in the doctor’s offices are so old they contain news about civilization just after the last ice age. My wife was a stickler for current magazines in the waiting room. If anything was present with a date prior to the new millennium it went into the recycling bin.
Modern visitors to the doctor’s office now have other options for passing the time. Smartphones and tablets now allow you to make your own appointments, email the doctor questions and review your own results all without actually talking to anyone. That is probably a good thing because with the complicated phone systems we use today it is uncommon to actually talk to a real person anyway. With the help of Google you could input all of your symptoms into an online database and probably figure out your own diagnosis as well. Just be cautious about your findings. Just because you have a headache doesn’t mean you have a subacute sclerosing case of panencephalitis or dengue fever. Smartphones and tablets still require the interpretation of qualified individuals to help sort out the deluge of information options available.
Late in the day I had the opportunity to visit with a family of young boys. Nearly every one of them was engaged in activities on their tablets. These were not the tablets I recalled as a youth. No spiral-bound notebooks or yellow legal pads. No flimsy newsprint held together by a gummy edge. No crayons and colored pencils to make diagrams, drawings and notes. No, these were electronic tablets designed to educate, entertain and keep them quiet until I was done with my poking and prodding. These were miniature flat screens with computing and gaming options designed to keep everyone entertained and out of trouble.
I watched with some interest as one of the boys deftly handled some type of flight simulator and another one was eliminating zombies or building cities or something else of value. Intrigued, I asked one of them what he was doing. He continued to click on some distorted green object on his screen because he was building a towering cactus that would then apparently collapse and shower his enemies with cactus balls or something of the sort. I never really understood the entire concept and didn’t have the time to learn.
The magical advancement of electronic gadgetry hasn’t really challenged the creativity of the minds of our young people. I offered the challenge to try one of the “iPads” that I used when I was a kid. It had a touch screen because you could erase your entire screen by turning it upside down and giving it a good shake or two. The input device was a round, white knob in each of the lower corners. By twisting the knobs either singly or in tandem you could create amazing pictures. No matter what you tried to draw it always came out looking like a Picasso. I probably made and erased numerous masterpieces in my early childhood. So where is the challenge? Where is the educational value? Today you can literally speak into your phone or tablet and get a detailed answer in minutes or seconds. You can tap the flat screen and create cities or delve into fantasy games of action or challenge. If you think fighting zombies on your new computer is hard, I challenge the youth of today to buy an Etch-a-Sketch, still available for $16.99, and draw a perfect circle.