Picture this: you need some milk and perhaps a chocolate bar on account of your spousal unit forgot to bring the milk and possibly a chocolate bar home that you specifically asked for by telephoning him or her not two hours earlier, and which of course he or she promptly forgot to do.
And it isn’t the first time this has happened, and you really need that milk for the morning and you also really (really) need that chocolate bar in order to fully enjoy your favourite TV program that very evening.
So instead of putting your proverbial foot down and giving your significant other the look, which causes him or her to immediately head back out to the store at great inconvenience because I — I mean he or she — really doesn’t want to turn around and go back out the store, you pull out your IPad, smartphone, computerized television communication unit or whatever the latest greatest digital device happens to be, and you quickly push a few buttons, swipe a few swipes on the screen and then retire to the backyard with a fresh coffee, whilst your partner person slinks off to another part of the house just in case you currently aren’t in the mood for forgiveness.
The “picture this” part isn’t over, however, in fact the best part is yet to come: Before you can even finish your coffee in your lawn chair in the backyard, you hear this buzzing, humming sound and you know it isn’t a hummingbird because you’ve been trying to get hummingbirds — any dumb hummingbird at all — to visit one of the four hummingbird feeders you’ve hung in your yard, like, three months ago and which nothing ever visits, but the whirring whine is getting closer and closer and then, over the cotoneaster hedge, there it is! Your milk and your Mars bar – coming in for a landing!
Your takeout order is in a little basket suspended from a miniature flying machine that looks like a cross between a tiny mutant helicopter and a flying saucer from a planet Lilliputian (very small extraterrestrials).
I’m talking, of course, about the newest thing that will no doubt be buzzing into our lives whether we like it or not: a miniature alien invasion!
Just kidding, the aliens, when they come, probably won’t bring milk and chocolate from the store.
No, it’s those remote control flying machines called drones that are all over the news lately. And I’m not talking about the drones that participate in conflict and carry bombs and wreak havoc, I’m talking about the much more sensible and peaceful marvels of technology such as unmanned delivery drones, camera drones and everyday people-operated fun drones.
I have had a very limited but memorable experience with the latter category in the form of a little remote helicopter toy that can land in the palm of your hand. (Well, not my hand, that’s for sure.) You’ve probably seen them being sold in booths in malls and airports, or perhaps being piloted by a 10-year-old relative in your very own living room.
Several years ago, before they came out with more sophisticated remote choppers that you (not me) can actually control, I became enamoured with the hovering flying machine at an airport and asked the obviously very skilled pilot salesguy (who was about 10 years old) if I could try it.
In a moment of bad judgment no doubt brought on by an overwhelming desire to sell me one of the helicopters, he said “Sure,” showed me a few buttons and levers on the remote controller, handed it to me and stepped back, wisely taking shelter.
I pressed a button thingy, pulled a lever thingy and the helicopter whined like wounded animal, went straight up into the air at twice the speed of light to the high ceiling in the middle of the packed airport.
Before the salesguy could get the expletive completely out of his mouth, and as he lunged at me to re-control the controller, I deftly solved the crisis by yelling bloody murder and frantically wangling away at the levers and the buttons so that the little whirling dervish came straight back down like a flying brick, the ’copter and its potentially lethal whirling blades crashing safely on the roof of his booth. Which was quite a ways up there.
Suffice to say I won’t be employed by Amazon, Domino’s Pizza or various flower shops and restaurants, all of which have already delivered or are testing the delivery of their wares by drone alone.
I’m still not entirely sure how this whole drone delivery thing is going to work.
Doesn’t it sound like a golden opportunity for neighbourhood rapscallions to test their aim with sling shots and BB guns? What about dogs that love to chase (and often catch) things? Or the few (OK, many) dishonest people driving by or hanging around when the sight of a small flying machine lowering a large pepperoni double cheese, or the latest Sherlock DVD onto your front step might be just a little too much temptation.
As they say, time will tell.
But as they also say, the future is now.
Furthermore, as I always say: Who are these people that keep saying these things?
Be that as it may, if you see a small alien-looking flying machine coming towards your house one of these days, dangling something from underneath, don’t worry. It’s just the paper boy with a remote control a couple of streets over in his bedroom, delivering papers.
Oh, and don’t fret about it crashing into you or your property. You can bet he knows how to fly that thing. After all, he’s 10-years-old.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.