Elizabeth Willis Barrett
Technology has advanced us greatly, I know, but there are a few things that I miss that technology has taken away. I would never go back to typewriters instead of computers, or mimeograph machines instead of wonderful personal printers. But I do miss talking on the phone–not the stuck-in-one-place-connected-to-a-cord kind of talking, but the wandering-around-with-earphones-in-your-cell-phone kind. I can get a lot done when I’m on the phone–fold a batch of clothes, load the dishwasher, make the bed, drive to Bashas. But now that texting has become the mode of communication, I no longer have free hands to do other things. I just stand in one place, hold my phone in my left hand and painstakingly tap out a one finger message. It’s not just free-handed time I miss, I also miss the warm voices of my friends. When you call a friend to ask a question, it usually doesn’t sound like:
“Are you back in town?”
“Going to Book Club?”
“See you there.”
That’s the texting version.
A phone call sounds more like:
“Hey, Jane, you’re not still out of town are you?”
“Nope, we got home last night. I’m so glad to be home and not living out of a suitcase. Anything happen while I was gone.”
“Tons. Can’t wait to tell you about it and I really want to hear about your trip. Can you go to Book Club tonight?”
“If I can find anything clean to wear. What’s the book again?”
“Peace Like a River. You read it already, right?”
“A while ago. Too bad I can’t remember much about it. I’ll go if I can pick you up. I hate to walk in by myself.”
“Sounds good. I’ll be ready.”
“See you soon.”
A phone call sounds like friendship. A text sounds like efficiency.
Another thing I miss are commercials. There are plenty of them still, probably more than ever, but you can DVR a movie and skip over all the commercials. In the olden days, a commercial was a good time to get up and accomplish something. You could clear the table, grab a drawer to organize or gather stuff for tomorrow’s meeting in the time it took to coerce you to buy Campbell’s Soup, a new Chevy Ford or make a run to McDonald’s. I know you can now put programs on pause and do those same things, but a commercial used to be a mandatory break.
At this very moment I am sitting on a couch in our cabin with five wonderful Young Adults. It is silent. Each one of us is occupied with a computer, an IPhone or an IPad. We don’t need each other. We are very content to play solo games, write essays, catch up on Facebook or Emails or text those who didn’t happen to make it up here.
Technology has created a new way of being. It is connecting in some ways and very dis-connecting in others. It saves minutes but gobbles up hours. What did I do before I felt compelled to see if anyone read my blog, or if someone made an amazing announcement on Facebook, or if there are any great deals offered by Groupon? The computer sucks me into its knowledge, its community, its offers. If I don’t look at the clock and pay attention to its fast forward march, I can fritter away a morning and have nothing redeeming to replace it.
Brad and I can often be found at each end of our kitchen table, not passing delicious dishes back and forth, but anchored to our individually prized laptops, feasting at a smorgasbord of information–none of which really matters. Maybe our quiet togetherness makes up for the lack of deep importance in our computer searches.
I repeat–I wouldn’t want to go back to the old ways. I just sometimes feel a bit of nostalgia for them.