Technology can be your friend, or not.
-Bill Gates, Founder of Microsoft
I have a love-hate relationship with technology. There, I said it.
I am appalled and horrified to realize that recent studies show Americans spend an average of six to eight hours a day in front of some kind of screen. A television. A phone. A computer. Absorbed. Totally absorbed and oblivious. Captivated. I'd even go so far as to say addicted. That even includes children in grade school. Yikes!
Like the young lady in the Safeway parking lot. She was headed to the store, her smart phone in one hand, eyes down, gazing at the screen and she was totally unaware that she was in a parking lot with busy cars whirling everywhere. She wandered aimlessly into the lane of oncoming traffic. One car screeched to a stop, another going the opposite direction slid to a standstill and guess what... she never looked up. She never saw she was in danger. Finally, an older gentleman rolled down his window and gently shouted, "Miss, be careful!" The look on her face said it all. She looked up, dazed, almost glassy-eyed, and stared at him as if he was from another planet. She shook her head, went back to her smart phone and somehow managed to meander into the Safeway store without bumping into the automatic doors.
I'm aware that younger America is marinated in technology and not all of it is bad by any means. But to quote my Grandma, and I seem to dispense her wisdom frequently these days, "sometimes a new fad isn't all it is cracked up to be."
Yup, Nana, I read you loud and clear.
Since I am a college professor and spend my days with savvy college students
who navigate technology as easy as breathing, I can see the benefits of easy access to information. Really I can.
Everyone has a phone and I do mean everyone. These days I'll often be found saying "Get out your phones and google the Gottman Institute and see what they say about how to handle conflict gently in gender relationships." Easy peasy. All the world at your finger tips.
I get it. Even I am computer dependent. That's how most of my students communicate with me after hours. That's how I blog. That's how I contact consulting clients. And perhaps I didn't recognize my own dependency on this magic information dispenser until my home computer blew up.
Blew up is not an exaggeration.
One minute it was working fine. Then I closed it.
Later, when in great expectation I opened it again, the screen had lines going every which way. It looked like an etch-a-sketch drawing where a toddler had gone wild with the buttons and covered the screen with lines. Oh. my. goodness.
I made a mad dash to the Apple store, as I use a Mac Pro, and was met by a young computer geek with a huge smile A smile that lasted until he saw my screen. "Oh dear" he whispered. Then he opened up the back of the computer, which I have had for at least six years, and sighed. The kind of sigh that never comes before good news. And then he said one word, as his eyes looked at the computer and then looked at me. He wasn't so disgusted as to be obnoxious, but you could feel a tad bit of contempt.
"VINTAGE," he said in disbelief. "How old is this?"
I imagined myself at some archeological dig site where a rare bone is discovered. Yet in archeology that discovery might bring elation. This discovery had a side-order of disbelief and criticism served with it.
"Vintage," I said, punctuating the word with an explanation point. And then I started to laugh.
I don't mean a small and lady-like laugh.
I mean a holding your sides until they hurt kind of howl. And when I could breathe properly and get words out in a coherent fashion I whispered, "Just like me. Vintage."
I left the Apple Store with a new Mac Pro, following the exchange of data from one computer to another. It's important to add that I am filled with gratitude that I had the resources to get a new laptop.
I came home and told every detail of my story of the blown up computer to my dear husband Bert.
He gladly listened, with a twinkle in his eye, to the entire, saga. After all, he's a marvelous counselor and is used to listening attentively and genuinely to people's problems. However Bert sees the pros and cons of overuse of technology, uses a computer as little as possible, and only does so at work.
Bert still relishes the old fashioned tradition of getting a newspaper at our door, holding it in his time-worn hands, sipping and savoring his coffee, and examining each page of the paper at his leisure. He comments on the photography in the Spokesman Review and the story titles, little things that most of us miss. After all he comes from a family of book publishers who specialized in historical, Native American and "coffee table" books. As a child he was in on every aspect of what it takes to do the research for a book, write a book, edit a book, and do the photography for a book. He appreciates the "art" of publishing and holding and feeling the final product.
I am so, so blessed to share my life with this man of tradition, even though years later he wouldn't know a kindle from a spindle. He's old-fashioned and that's only one of the countless things I adore about him.
Bert nodded wisely as I gave him the details of the computer mishap. Then he gave me a big hug and kiss, and he solemnly, with a small side of humor, told me he loved me. He assured me that he'd love to get that new computer for me for Christmas. And then we both started to chuckle when I recalled the proclamation that the old computer was declared "vintage." After all my "vintage" life-partner rarely even uses a cell phone.
Planting a seed is believing in tomorrow . ...