The mixed blessing of information technology

Our son Justin is driving to Arkansas to catch up with his wife and children who flew to Little Rock this morning. They are artists with a small family, and making ends meet in the Bay Area became a significant challenge. Seeking an alternative, they’re moving to a house in a forest near Roland, AK.

I followed Justin’s solo road trip on Find Friends and was enjoying an occasional text exchange whenever he stopped for gas or to get out and stretch his legs. He pulled off at a rest stop on I-40 near Edwards Air Force Base and we caught up on his plans to try and make it as far as Flagstaff. He was making pretty good time, but I had suggested that he might want to think about stopping in Kingman. He would be there around 9:00 and it would be getting dark. He wanted to push on because he is really eager to reach his family. So around 9:00 I saw him arrive then continue on past Kingman. Then, about 9:30 his phone stopped updating in Find Friends. About 10 miles east of Kingman the app just started reporting he was last found 5 minutes ago. 10 minutes ago. 45 minutes ago. An hour ago.

Resisting the urge to panic, I first persuaded myself that the battery had probably died on his phone. Still not panicking, I figured I could at least check for traffic incidents on that stretch of highway on the Arizona Department of Transportation website. My eyes hit on a yellow incident icon was placed on I-40 between Kingman and Flagstaff. The description of the incident was maddeningly vague, which of course made me start to feel some pangs of anxiety. I copied the incident ID from the ADOT website and pinged their Twitter account, asking if they could provide more details:

@ArizonaDOT — any details about event ID 641554 on I-40 west of Seligman? I’m trying to find my son who was driving there 30-45 mins ago.

Within minutes they replied:

@mdh There’s a disabled vehicle on the shoulder that reportedly hit a pothole. No injuries are reported. A tow truck’s en route.

Even as I relaxed I wondered if it was Justin who hit the pothole. Then, a moment later, his iPhone updated it’s location.

Feeling a little foolish over having worried, I started to shut down for the night with a final tweet…

@ArizonaDOT Thanks. Moments after I tweeted you my son’s iPhone showed up in Flagstaff. He made it to his destination.

Love is powerful. After nearly 34 years I can’t break the habit of needing to know he is safe.

Thursday August 11, 2016 — Mark —