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First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Illustration by Adam De Souza

My son bought me a new watch last Christmas. I did need a watch, my old one was losing time. Maybe a Timex, one where I could press the button and the face would light up at night. I just needed something that would tell the time.

But Jonathan is a technology freak. If there is something new on the market, he must have it. Then he must convince the rest of his family that this is something we really shouldn’t be without. He will often buy it for us if we can’t be convinced to part with our own money. The rest of us find humour in his excesses.

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“I will set your watch up for you mom,” he says on Christmas Day. Set the time, I think he means. Until he starts telling me that this watch will buzz if I fall and don’t get up right away. If I don’t want my family to be alerted, I need to turn it off within seconds. If my family can’t be reached and I don’t turn it off, the watch will send a message to 911. I don’t know whether to be pleased that my son is thinking of my welfare or upset that he thinks I am old enough to require this kind of monitoring. Although potentially helpful, this feature has been a cause for some anxiety. I fell three times this winter crossing the ditch behind my house. Each time I slid gently into the snow on my bottom and so far, I have managed to turn the buzzer off before the ambulance arrives. Sometimes the buzzer does not go off and at least once it went off when I was sitting on my couch drinking tea. I am secretly a little pleased at these failures of technology.

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My watch can check sound levels nearby and alert me if the decibels are high enough to affect my hearing. I must remember to turn this feature off when my grandchildren are visiting.

The watch can monitor my heart rate, my pulse and will even send a cardiogram to the doctor should I ever wish this to happen, which I won’t. Horror of horrors, it would even track my menstrual cycle if I still had one – but wait a minute, it probably already knows that. Such surveillance screams of intrusion.

The watch will tell me the temperature at any time of day and keep me informed about the weather and the time in other parts of Canada in case I need to know. If there is a storm warning in Halifax, I will know about it by the time Haligonians can look out their windows.

My watch will intercept messages sent to my other devices and allow me to voice or text message back should I be inclined to do this. I can even call up the keypad and use it as a phone. I feel somewhat conspicuous talking into my watch, but I confess I have whispered an answer to a message once or twice.

I do like the feature that tracks my daily steps and kilometres. This will be extremely helpful if my family and I ever get back to hiking the Rideau Trail. Due to COVID-19, I am now diligently walking my daughter’s dog and I must say I am accumulating several kilometres daily. Recently I went for a couple of weeks without long walks. The first time I walked around the block after that hiatus, a message on my watch popped up. “Looks like you are working out.” I could just tell that the tone was cheeky.

The watch sends encouraging messages to tell me that I can still trudge that extra kilometre to close the circle of activity it has mapped out for my day. Sometimes I feel a little guilty disappointing my newest technology but mostly I have learned to ignore its nagging. Lately, I notice that I often get the message telling me to “breathe.” Has my watch decided that is the best it can expect from me? I am a little insulted.

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There are voice memos that I think I can record so that the watch will talk to me in my own voice. That, though, would be totally scary.

The walkie-talkie feature could be fun, but it only works between the same brand of watches. So far, I have no friends that have the same kind of watch and would be interested in clandestine conversation. I have thought about buying one for my husband since he seldom wears his hearing aids but I’m not sure either of us has the fortitude to suffer through the learning curve as we try to get it working.

I am looking at my watch now and I know that it is 3:40 p.m. in Ottawa, but only 12:40 p.m. in Vancouver. I know a few people in Vancouver but none that I communicate with regularly or ever. I wonder if they have had their lunch.

I love my new watch though. It tells me almost everything I will need to know to get through my day, it challenges me to keep up with technological advances, and it readily supplies data even when I only want to know the time. But occasionally, it scares me when I consider the information it has compiled.

Today I just discovered that my watch has a camera. I have investigated this feature and it appears that my watch somehow mates with my phone and the phone actually contains the camera. I am opposed to any technology mating, but I try to understand the dynamics. The camera takes the picture, but the watch can make it happen or the watch takes the picture and the camera makes it happen. This whole process confuses me.

Maybe I will even upgrade this watch when a new version appears. I will get one that contains a built-in functioning camera, if only to play spy with my grandchildren. I would have loved a spy camera watch when I was a kid. Really, it’s never too late.

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Holly Kritsch lives in Ottawa.

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