I’m in Seattle right now for a web conference. When I travel I’m highly aware of my usual patdown routine. This is the thing I do every time I leave the house: I pat all my pockets to check for my wallet, keys and phone. I feel naked without doing this routine.
For years — since college at least — my patdown routine was for wallet, keys, and knife. Sometime around 2004 I got a phone and having four things in my pockets felt like too much. Especially if I also had an iPod or a pen for some reason. So I quit carrying the knife.
When I was a child my father always carried a pocketknife, as did most other grown men in Nebraska in the 1970s. He, and most other men, also carried handkerchiefs and cigarette lighters in their pockets.
We seldom need a pocket knife for any random purpose these days — pop bottles have twist tops, and no one ties packages with string any more.
The hotel key in my pocket this very moment is actually a magnetic card.
At a certain point in (very) recent history, we traded constant access to small atom-twisting devices for constant access to information-twisting devices.