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ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Becoming Thoroughly Modern

© Another Day in the Country

Well, I got a smart phone! I’ve delayed the inevitability of this moment for years. It wasn’t until “my provider” said that my old cell phone was so outdated that they could no longer give me “service” that I caved in, acquiesced, humbled myself, bit the bullet, succumbed to the lure of this new technology (which isn’t really “new” any more).

I know that I’m not alone in my hesitancy to dive into embracing this gadget so adored, so necessary, so much fun for a younger generation. It’s embarrassing to admit that my 7-year-old grandson knows more about this piece of equipment than I do. He has no fear of pushing buttons, swishing and zooming. I, on the other hand, am fearful that I’ll “do something wrong” and end up speaking to someone inadvertently in Outer Slobovia, with a huge telephone bill to prove it.

We knew this time was coming, when what we had which seemed to work perfectly well would be obsolete. Obsolescence is a horrifying word to anyone over fifty.

As we waited for service of one kind or another at the cell phone store, I watched people coming in. The older folk like me seemed to always come in twos as if they were heading towards the Noah’s Ark of safety and a mighty storm was coming. They usually held hands, supporting each other — emotionally, if not physically. I knew how they felt.

Coming into this store was like falling into a magical rabbit hole or venturing forth into the land of Oz. Everything was strange and wrapped in plastic. Our whole vocabulary was going to have to change. My fingers that had learned to tap keys on a typewriter at great speed when I was 16, and then transferred their expertise to a computer keyboard (in my thirties) were now going to have to adjust to a “typewriter” that was one inch by two inches. I’d be reduced to using my pinky finger (the only one really small enough) to hunt and peck like all the other ignoramuses who never learned to type.

When my mother came back to live with us here in Ramona, in her eighties, she left a brand new home being built for her in Oregon. I guess it figures that she would want a brand new home here, too, but when she moved in, she was confounded by all the equipment. Everything had buttons and computers. Everything was “something new and different.” She hadn’t figured on that adjustment. Wasn’t it enough to adjust to being back in Ramona? Wasn’t it enough to adjust to the death of her husband? And now, this lady who had grown up cooking on a wood stove was supposed to learn how to punch buttons to adjust the heat on her counter top stove, set the oven, and turn up the air conditioner? I know how she felt.

All this time, I thought that a phone was a phone was a phone — something to talk to another person on. Period. But now my phone is smarter and it can do more things than I know to even ask it to do. It takes pictures, tells me the weather, plays music, offers games, can do my banking, surf the internet, and even be my secretary. Yes, isn’t that amazing, that if my fingers are just too awkward to fit on that miniscule keyboard, I can ask Siri (she has a name, in fact I just asked her how to spell her name. “My name?” she asked, “It is SIRI.”) to type the text message for me. The only problem is that you have to watch her closely because Siri doesn’t always understand what you’re saying, and that magical text message could go out with some rather bizarre suggestions. And that is not all that she can do. You can ask her questions and she’ll find out the answer for you — like the game score between the Giants and the Colts. She can give you directions. She gives new meaning to the old word Ma Bell used that sounds like this new “tell-a-phone.” Who would-a thought? If my Grandma Ehrhardt, who answered her phone to “two longs and a short” ring, were to hear about all this, she’d think I was stringing her a line. She’d probably not believe me when I told her these “telephone poles,” no longer supported phone lines but electric lines, either.

“We’ll take it slow,” my sister reassured me, “and we won’t panic. Every day we’ll learn something new.” She smiled, warmly, “Now be sure and take the phone with you wherever you go, or its purpose is defeated.” She’s admonishing me, hoping it sinks in that I am now a captive of technology on another day in the country.

Last modified Oct. 23, 2014

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