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Swift: Does technology really save time?

Tammy Swift, columnist

I am often impressed by how much my mother gets done in a day.

She will report that she just baked four dozen buns, washed all the linen and made the beds for two inn guests, cleaned the bathrooms, got her hair done, made chicken and dumplings for the evening meal and still had time to sit down and watch "Wheel" with Dad.

Part of her secret is a lumberjack-worthy work ethic and a natural efficiency. But I have another theory as to why my parents' generation seems to have more time than I do.

They don't use technology. Think about it. Technology is supposed to be the ultimate time-saver and in many ways, it is. (Talk to anyone who had to research papers in the days before Google, and you will understand.)

But I will also argue that the care and feeding of the tech beast is much more labor-intensive and time-consuming than we like to admit.

Just a few examples:

• Time it takes you to log onto Facebook "just to check things out," only to find yourself oohing and aahing over friends' new baby photos, be reeled into a "news report" that turns out to be an ad for age-defying face cream, wish three people a happy birthday, click a "worried" face on a friend's sad post and get in a political argument: two hours.

• Time it takes your mom to have coffee with her friend Norma: one hour.

• Time it takes you to get a prescription refill, including time it takes to access an online patient portal to send the request to your provider, because the nurse has to sandwich time to speak to the doctor in between back-to-back appointments; time it takes for the clinic to electronically communicate with the pharmacy; time you spend on the phone tree trying to reach the pharmacy and see if refill is ready; time spent trying to find an online coupon that will make the medication more affordable and the time spent sobbing in the car after the coupon is rejected and you see how much the prescription costs: 1 day.

• Time it takes your mom to get a refill by calling the town pharmacist — who also happens to be her bridge partner — and then drive there to pick it up: 45 minutes.

• Time it takes you to text someone, including time needed to add appropriate emojis and send profuse apologies marks when message autocorrects from "I will take out all the hostas myself" to "I will take out all the hostages myself": 15 minutes.

• Time it takes for your mom to pick up the phone and tell someone she is running late: 1 minute.

• Time it takes to pay a bill online, including time to try and remember password, be locked out of account after too many attempts, call the 800-number and be shuffled through a 60-arm phone tree, listen to two rounds of the elevator version of "More Than a Feeling" while waiting for a human, get a temporary password, use the temporary password to establish a real password that you haven't used in the five previous password resets, see that you need to answer a security question, wonder if you spelled it "Saint Bonifice" or "St. Bonifice" when security question asks which hospital you were born in, reset security question to something you are positive you will remember and finally get to payment page, only to be notified that the website has crashed: 3 hours.

• Time it takes for your mom to stick a check in an envelope and put it in the mailbox: 5 minutes.

Ugh. It's so scary. It's like technology has taken us all hosta.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.

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