Greetings again from me and my now longtime squirrel-buds! As the world gradually reopens out there (with mixed results here in the States…), I’m still pretty much sticking to home. No, not because of my gray roots. Okay, not only because of my gray roots. I think this squirrel and I both just prefer to proceed with caution.
Plus, I think I’ve finally fallen down a digital rabbit hole and may never leave home again!
When not glued to my tablet, I’ve been using quarantine time to get my apartment in order and have turned up all kinds of different media my family’s used to capture moments across more than a century! I’ve got cards, photos, slides, 8- and 16-mm films, reel-to-reel tapes, VHS tapes, 3/4-inch tapes, cassette tapes, teeny-tiny-I-don’t-know-what-they-are tapes, CD’s, DVD’s and thumb drives!
These represent priceless memories! But they’re also reminders that my relationship with gadgets and electronics has never been an easy one…
Technology has just never been my thing. And every advancement in it tends to make me want to retreat. In fairness, I did manage to develop skills like dropping a needle into the right groove of a record album back in the day. And before playlists, I figured out how to record ultimate mix tapes on cassette and later how to burn them onto CD’s and even present them as gifts.
But do those abilities matter anymore? Nooo. No, now it’s all about the clicking and the swiping and the getting my phone at the right angle so my face gets approved and trying not to feel cranky and judged when it doesn’t: “Too much makeup, oh Great and Powerful Smart Phone? Too little? Seriously, what do you want from me – and you kids over there, get off my lawn!”
I don’t even have a lawn. That’s how crazy this stuff makes me.
It must be battle fatigue from so many years in the techno-trenches. My old (and much more tech-savvy) friend Judy loved reminding me of the day years ago that I got a new DVD player for our apartment. Judy gave me half an hour to hook it up myself so I could feel like a grown-up and everything – but when time was up, she found me still sitting on the floor with a cord in one hand and directions in the other, entirely bereft of any hope or self esteem.
“Oh my god,” she exclaimed, grabbing the cord. “This goes here. That goes there. And now we can watch a movie while we’re young!”
That’s my whole technical life in a nutshell – just a long series of “OK Boomer” moments.
It’s so bad that when my office switched to single cup coffee makers a few years back, I was traumatized – to me, it was like that monolith from 2001 got imbedded in the break room. I tried staring the thing down from out in the hallway. And I tried sneaking up, thumping on it with the back of my hand and scuttling out – but it still wouldn’t go away and let the pots with the brown handles and the orange handles come back so that life would be understandable again!
What to do..? Judy had moved to Ireland, so “phoning a friend” was out. And having someone demonstrate has never been enough since I seem to need the muscle memory of going through motions myself.
As a last resort, I read the directions, loaded in a pod of my choice, and ended up with a really lovely cup of coffee. Who knew?
Um – kinda the whole rest of the office.
Here in the present, it’s gutting that I can’t visit Mum in assisted living because of the pandemic – but I’m grateful she’s fine with staying in touch through good, old-fashioned phone calling! Most nights, she reads books to me over the phone while I hand sew masks out of t-shirts and dish towels. Basically, we’re characters in our own Jane Austen novel (“Pride and Pandemic”?) – but it works for us!
Maybe I was born in the wrong age. With all this technology at hand, a fair part of me still prefers curling up with a book and a mug of tea. I Google stuff all the time, but I also love that when I think of a phrase I once read (and while I might forget what I had for breakfast anymore…), I’ll recall what the spine of the book I read it in looks like, and it’ll just call to me across a crowded shelf!
Like recently, I was moved to pull down The Once and Future King – T.H. White’s telling of the epic of King Arthur. (Yellow spine, purple writing.) I was looking for the advice I remembered the wizard Merlin’s giving young Arthur when the boy is sad. Merlin counsels that the best cure for sadness is to learn something:
“That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”
There’s an awful lot going on right now to make one sad. And in the midst of the turmoil, I’ve finally been figuring out how to take a deeper digital dive to work on being better informed and better connected. There are a lot of threads to follow.
Also over the last few months, I’ve “discovered” that technology can help bring on a much-needed smile:
I joined fellow Buster Keaton enthusiasts in a TCM-sponsored watch party of the silent classic “The General”.
I live-streamed NASA’s coverage of the SpaceX Dragon’s launch.
I’ve listened to podcasts covering everything from comedy to Shakespeare to Broadway to LA Kings hockey.
I check in every day to watch Sir Patrick Stewart’s rendering of a Shakespeare sonnet with that wonderful voice of his!
And I hopped onto my first ever Zoom conference call to share cross-country cocktails with former hockey teammates in California, Colorado and Connecticut!
I’ve accomplished all this stuff from right on my couch – I mean, who kne..?
Yeah, okay. Never mind.
I’m late to the party – I get it. And I’m not proud that it took a virus to drag me there. I may not be doing any of my beloved traveling right now – but little by little, I’m finding my technically-challenged way to some really amazing places!
That’s not to say I don’t still get confused. The other night, I was listening to Mum’s reading a biography of her fellow Grinnell College alum Robert Noyce (of silicon chip fame – so some of this has been his fault!). I got distracted for a moment and, with an instinct only lately acquired, reached for the phone to try and roll the Mumcast back 15 seconds.
I may have learned and even grown in recent weeks, but hey – it’s still me. Even so, I pledge to keep on learning.
Cheers – and be well and be safe!