Once upon a time way back in the 1980’s when telephones were still plugged into walls and were only used to talk to another person. When there was no caller ID and Siri was an unusual girl’s name, I got an answering machine.
I fought it. I figured that if people wanted to talk to me badly enough they could call back. Then I became busier in my volunteer work, my kids were growing up and driving, my husband’s office needed to contact him, so I caved and bought one. For those who were not around in these dark times, an answering machine was a small box that one connected to the phone. You recorded a message and if you did not answer the phone, the caller left a message that could be heard by anyone in the vicinity. I started to like it because I could check on who was calling me.
One day I got a message from my son Alan who was a college freshman in St Louis. “What is this- an ANSWERING MACHINE? Who are you and what have you done to my mother?
I remembered this as I sat at my desk facing my personal computer, with my I-Pad on my right and my smart phone (which I’m not really smart enough to own) on my left, listening to music from my I-Pod, while working on all of them with my blog teacher, Jen. All I needed was my laptop, but that needed charging and my Nook, which was not really applicable. How did this happen and yes, what have you done with my mother?
I never intended to own, much less use all these devices. In those middle years of the past century I remember telephones that were dialed and went through an operator. I listened to The Teddy Bears Picnic on a vinyl record played on a record player. I still own a Joan Biaz vinyl record. As the years progressed I listened to tapes on a tape player, then on a portable player with headphones. I still use my Sony player and tapes when I walk.
When we built our house twenty-one years ago we put in a state of the art Bang and Olufson sound system. It consisted of four parts – a record player, a tape player, a CD player and a radio. We wired speakers in all the ceilings. It was not the height of modernity, but it met our needs and still does. In my loft I have boom box that plays tapes, CD’s and the radio. It also has an I-Pod dock that I bought when I bought my I-Pod.
Of course being a writer I needed a computer, but before the Internet arrived I only used it for word-processing. No banking or spreadsheets needed. The advent of the Internet became my first distraction, when I had to check e-mail and news before writing.
Judging by my husband, son and some friends, most people like to get the most updated devices. I never think I need them until I see something or someone says something. That is how I got an answering machine. It is also how I got an I-Pad.
One day, shortly before a trip to Japan I visited a friend who had just bought an I-Pad. I was very worried that I would run out of reading material on this two-week trip. She showed me how to load books, videos and music onto it. I was hooked and bought one. Now the funny thing is that I still carted paper books with me and to date have probably only read about two books on my I-Pad. I did watch the Australian soap opera McCloud’s Daughters but it is not how I read.
I recently bought a smart phone. I loved my little flip phone from Credo, but once again I heard about an App that I felt I needed, called Map My Walk. So out with the flip and in with the smart.
In spite of what you may think, this is not about devices. It is about how time has changed or how we have changed time.
On a beautiful fall day I stopped at our local farm stall to pick up some berries, tomatoes and zucchini. There were three of us browsing the stalls and one I will call Liz, behind the counter. When one woman finished she took her bags and placing them on the counter said she also wanted a box of apples. Liz went to the truck parked in the back and staggered forward with a box of apples. Then she had to call the farmer and ask what they cost. Checked with the customer, rang up the veggies, ran up the credit card without looking at it and handed it back. By this time the line was two deep. I watched as Liz tapped her fingers and toes impatiently waiting for the paper to crank through the machine. It did not. “What card did you give me?” Liz asked. “Amex” was the reply. Oops, she obviously hadn’t read the sign. She gave another card, it rang up, she signed and then Liz helped her carry the box of apples to the car. She then rushed back to serve me.
I am not sure what the other woman was thinking but for the first few minutes I was going nuts. Then I thought why am I being so impatient? I do not have anywhere to go, except home. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and there are no bugs. I relaxed and tried to mentally tell Liz not to worry either.
Whenever I go grocery shopping I am always conscious of choosing the shortest line. Then I worry that I am not going through it fast enough for the person behind me. It all takes time you see. I have to take my wallet out of my purse, take my card out, slide it through the machine, which I never do right the first time and put it back. I then have to put my purse back, take out my keys and sunglasses, because I will have my hands full on my way out. It is worse in winter, when I have to dig in my pockets to find my gloves and scarf and button up my coat. All the time I am doing this I glance behind me to see if that person is getting impatient.
How did this happen? I blame the devices. We are constantly checking texts, Facebook, Lindkin, Instagram, sending tweets, and some of us oldies reading e-mails. I am breathless as I write this. We drive our cars faster. We exercise faster and longer. We wolf down our food, which we eat on the run. Even if we are dining in a nice restaurant there is music blaring that is telling our brains to eat faster and get out. We demand of others and ourselves, instant gratification.
I have decided not to get caught up in this new normal. I am still old fashioned because I only do e-mail and Facebook. I have also turned off all sounds that alert me to mail and posts on my phone and I-Pad. I have made a conscious decision not to connect to either, when in a public place. I will enjoy the company or the quiet. I am determined not to worry about the person behind me when I am standing in any line.
Having said all that, I know that we communicate differently now. We are connecting to people and ideas across the world. And Alan, I am still your mother, who has progressed from an answering machine to a smart phone and swears it is keeping her brain sharp.
These two articles provide food for thought