Today we spent 45 minutes in a Radio Shack on the Upper West Side, trying to upgrade Louise's cell phone. The phone stopped being useful about a year ago, but we kept it alive while barely keeping it breathing. We used duct tape to piece it together about six months ago, after it split in two. For awhile that worked. Most phone calls proceeded without issue.
Eventually people on the other end of the conversation couldn't hear us. Then we couldn't hear them. Often both parties only heard soft rustling. In the last two months, we could only talk on it while simultaneously pressing hard on the top of the phone, keeping it sealed together with the bottom half. Otherwise conversations dropped off. By the end of a 20-minute talk, my hand would be cramping and it'd take another half hour to feel right.
So it was time for a new phone. The young salesman spoke to us like a teacher helping an immigrant learn English. He spoke slowly, laughed occasionally at our perplexed faces and gently encouraged us. "That's a really good choice for a case. No, really good. Good job."
Louise is now the confused owner of an iPhone. As we sit in a restaurant, she's looking at her new toy with a furrowed brow, determined to figure out how to use it to make an actual call. She checked her email. Checked the weather report. Now, how to dial? An outsider looking at this scene would conclude that we're both 95 years old and stopped following technology about the time movies became talkies. Earlier we both held it aloft with wide-eyed wonder, the same look that graced the faces of the first people to start a fire. We need like a 12-hour, hardcore tutorial, preferably run by Steve Jobs himself. Or a fourth-grader, who would have more knowledge on the subject than us. Actually, can someone just email and tell us how to use it as a phone?
That's Louise's cell phone, which I use a couple of times a month, earning it the title "our" phone. But I still don't own a cell phone of my own and there are still no plans to get one. Maybe down the line, if some writing deals work out, it will be a necessity. In the meantime, I remain a land line guy, a dying breed. My parents only got a touch-tone home phone like 10 years ago. When we visit them, at least once during our stay I'll have to fix their TV because they've hit the TV/Cable button and can't get the channels back and are convinced they'll have to call a repairman to the house and, Jesus, think how much that's going to cost! Even these two people have had cell phones for five years.
People get a hold of me at home and I sort of like that when I'm out and about in the world I'm free. If there's an emergency, I'll hear about it soon enough. When I need to call Louise to tell her where I am, I use a pay phone, praying that I don't contract a communicable disease from touching the numbers or the phone itself. You can smell the breath of the last seven people who used the phone. Still prefer it over a cell.
I'm still not on Facebook. I can't see that changing anytime soon, despite the peer pressure. I'm not anti-technology or anti-advancement or a Kaczynski acolyte, even if my facial hair is occasionally similar. I have a personal website and a blog, so it's not like I'm allergic to self-revelation or fearful of the online world. But I still have no desire to be on Facebook, primarily because I don't think I would ever update anything on it and it would just be another thing that I regret not following through on. I already feel bad about not calling old friends or family. I feel bad about not responding to emails from old classmates. On Facebook I'd feel bad for not putting up pictures of a picnic in Central Park. And it's not like I'm avoiding it because I don't want to hear from people who I played battled ball against in third grade. For God's sake, no one's as obsessed with the past as I am and no one remembers ridiculous details or wants to talk about old times as much as I do (so, please, email me).
No Facebook, no MySpace, no Twitter, no social networking of any sort (note, I am on Twitter, or at least signed up for it. Louise started an account for me and I think it would be valuable in the future if I start publishing some things again, but right now it just sits there, vacant).
It's all part of my lifestyle that's set in about 1990. I still prefer my VCR to our DVD player. The sound of a tape rewinding is reassuring. I tape instead of TiVoing. Our music plays on a CD player I bought in the mid 1990s. We have an iPod but in three years have probably listened to it 10 times. When we listen to a shuffle, it's a a real shuffle, with the CDs noisily rearranging themselves inside the player. It's a comforting sound, the sound of the world passing us by.
Louise talks about buying a Kindle someday but I then talk her out of it and we simply purchase a dozen more books. I read numerous newspapers online but still buy three or four each day, paging through them, the ink staining my hands.
I don't fear technology. There's no phobia. I appreciate everything it does for me and the world. It's just that, in many aspects of modern life, the technology I enjoy most was created in the last century. Time to go now. Something exciting just happened. Seems like Louise just figured out how to dial a number. Next step: finding the send button.