Recently, the world has undergone yet another revolutionary technological advance. After a year of rampant rumors, this fall has brought a new sleek mechanism into our lives. It has been described as “thinner, lighter, faster.” It is responsive to the slightest touch. It is predicted to change the way we do things and simplify our daily lives. Naturally, I am referring to the keyless locks that adorn every dorm room on campus, not Apple’s iPhone 5.
Just as Apple changed the smartphone game with the “18 percent thinner, 20 percent lighter and two times faster” iPhone 5, Princeton Housing has upped the ante and equipped us with a TigerCard that is 20 percent thinner, 25 percent lighter and guarantees entry five times faster than the antiquated metal key. (These specs are pure estimation, but math majors are free to calculate.) The touch screen of the iPhone 5, however, cannot hold a candle to the keypads on these new locks. Let your finger linger a fraction of a second too long and that accidental double “2” leads to pin denial! Apple boasts that the new iPhone is brighter, but nothing beats the brilliance of that little red light flashing at you. Flashing at you as you try to update your card at the nifty hotspots hidden around campus. Seriously. Hidden. Flashing at you as you stand outside your door at 3 a.m. after a long night when all you want to do is open your door and fall into your bed. But there, in your way, is that vivid little red light barring entry. Believe me, it is brighter than any message notification the iPhone can muster.
This brings us to the social implications of both sleek new technologies. While the iPhone promotes bonding and meaningful social connection given the beauty of the fact that everyone is just a phone call away, once again Princeton raises the bar: The nuances and intricacies of the keyless locks cannot be solved over the phone. That flashing red light ensures face-to-face interaction, as it involves a hike to 200 Elm Drive, P-Safe’s headquarters, or New South, and then several minutes of hand waving, exasperated sighing and head bobbing at the very least. If you are lucky, there may be several trips in store, as the replacement cards have a tendency not to work the first time. Close your eyes and just imagine the overwhelming emotions that would wash over you at 3:30 a.m. after one trip to 200 Elm, followed by a second failed attempt at entering your room, a rash kick to your door and the subsequent limp back to the P-Safe building. Personally, I cannot think of a better way to reinforce and bolster the student body’s relationship with Public Safety.
In the midst of all of this, hidden fees appear to sweeten the deal. At least with the iPhone you are debriefed on all charges by an overeager AT&T employee and then notified as you reach your data limit. But with regard to the avant-garde keyless lock system: Want to call P-Safe because walking there in the dead of night may not be the best idea? There’s a fee for that. Forget to return your replacement card in 24 hours? There’s a fee for that. Buy a new TigerCard because it is the only way you will ever get into your room? Yep, there’s a fee for that too. Forget Apple; buy stock in the Princeton Housing Department.
The world around us may have pre-ordered the iPhone 5 weeks in advance and spent hours waiting for an Apple store to open with the device in stock. Here in the Bubble, we did not ask for keyless locks; they were simply given to us. But you can be sure we, too, will get to spend hours waiting for our doors to open.