Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nine Stories: Technological Scurvy

Convenience is what life is all about, right?  After all, the pioneers who settled America sacrificed nearly everything in search of a more convenient life.  Convenience in worshipping who and what they wanted to; convenience to govern themselves with out the rule of a monarchy, convenience to --well, you get the point.  Anyway, wasn’t their ultimate goal to prosper and have the opportunity to acquire the same conveniences  that Kings and Queens had?  Huge gaps between rich and poor classes of society have been based on who had the most conveniences.  Louis XIV’s court scientist created a greenhouse at Versailles that produced oranges year round.  While the peasant folk of France suffered scurvy, lacking essential vitamins, old Louis sat slurping his oh-so-juicy oranges, enjoying the modern convenience of growing fruit out of season.  However, times have changed.  Conveniences that were once available only to people like Louis, namely Kings and Queens, are now part of our everyday lives.

E-mail allows us to communicate across the oceans in a matter of moments. Twitter keeps us updated on the most inane parts of any person’s existence.  Facebook makes it possible to keep in touch with long, lost high school friends, or that random guy who bags your groceries, but who knows your name and therefore is now your ‘friend’.   However, the most invasive device ever invented can blamed on Alexander Graham Bell, who if I had the chance, would have smothered in his sleep before he invented it: The Telephone.
During the first 5 months of our marriage, a sublime silence reigned over our home simply because we took it off the hook. Once reality set in and we realized that we would have to emerge from all the bliss of honeymoon-dom, we put it back on the hook and the ringing began.
Of course, my love/hate affair with the telephone began as soon as I was in Jr. High.  Who could resist picking up the phone to call my BFF whom I had just spent the entire day with?  Everyone knows that what happens between when the last bell rings and when you get home merits at least a three hour phone conversation.  Not to mention analyzing what ‘Boy-Man’ (you know, that Jr. High babe that all the girls had crushes on…he was so manly at the time, but who was, in reality, a knobby kneed 13 year old) said and how he said it.  So of course, I loved the telephone as a teenager.  I loved the phone during college too--Mom and I chatted everyday to keep the homesickness at bay.  But then there was an 18 month period where I did volunteer work for my church, and the phone simply became a tool to arrange appointments and call home twice a year.  By the time I returned home and was married, the phone became what it remains to me this day:  A device to interrupt my most private moments, my deepest sleep or our best conversations.  And the sad part is, is that 90% of the calls are people who I don’t really want to talk to.

Now, don’t be offended if you’ve called me in the last few years and you are reading this: chances are, I really did want to talk to you.  But there is a vast majority who call us asking for money, votes, rides, meals, tours, advice, consulting, rainbows and unicorns that we are just simply unable to give.  It left me wondering last night while I was canning green tomato pickles (what? I was honoring my inner domestic diva--) and the phone was ringing every 5 minutes.  Was this contraption I gripped with a syrupy hand, for my convenience or for theirs?

To mark the transition from childhood to adulthood, many cultures require that the occasion be celebrated with a specific ritual.  May I suggest etiquette courses for potential callers?  One of my biggest peeves is when upon answering, people say something like, “Hey! How’s it going!?” and proceed to have a 5 minute conversation about nothing specific enough for me to glean from context who I may be talking to.  What ever happened to, “Hi!  This is Jorge, how are you?  The reason I’m calling is…”?  Or worse, those callers who ask “Hey! What are you guys doing on Saturday night?”  And because I can’t see their body language, I miss their eyes shifting quickly to their demonic set of triplets they are calling to see if we will baby sit.  Sometime, it would be nice if someone said, “Hey! What are you doing on Saturday?  Because we have 2 free tickets to see U2 in concert, and we though you’d really enjoy it.”

Alas.  I will keep hoping.  I’ve learned that convenience has a price.  Sometimes I dread coming home because I know that the phone is there…just waiting to ring.  Did Louis feel the same dread as he ate oranges out of season?  Probably not.  People who don’t own phones are either serial killers, (think about it, who are they going to call?) or Amish…but I am kept awake at night worrying about my inability to co-exist with conveniences, like my phone.  The pressure to be ’technologically savvy’ may be giving me and aneurysm.  Next month our computer will be an antique.  I thought a ’browser’ was someone who needed to tweeze.  And Apple is coming out with IPhone 5 before I’ve even cared that I don’t have IPhones one through four.   But unless I take up quilting and join the Amish, or start stashing bodies in the chest freezer, there’s no getting away from the phone.  Besides, I don’t want to be left behind, sick with technological scurvy, while everyone around me is eating fresh fruit.  Like Louis, I too want what life has to offer.  So I ask myself if a balance can exist between the world of technology and the world of convenience.      

A couple of weekends ago, as I was in that lovely nether world of not-quite-awake-yet-in the-middle-of-kissing Rocco DeSpirito (you know, that hot Italian chef-guy) when the phone rang.  Out of a Sacred Saturday morning’s slumber I was torn by the damn phone ringing.  Slipping out of bed and tip-toeing as quickly as possible before it rang again, I yanked the phone cord from the wall.

Maybe a touch of technological scurvy isn’t too bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment