This wasn’t supposed to happen. She wasn’t usually home in the middle of the afternoon. I wasn’t expecting to have to be polite and listen to stuff I could care less about. I wanted to get her voice mail. I just wanted to leave a message.
Voice mail is part of modern technology I like. I hate talking on the phone and voice mail lets me get to the point with no interaction or exchanges. I say what I need to say in less than a minute.
In an effort to defend this approach, at least I still talk on the phone instead of doing it the modern way, which is texting. If someone puts a gun to my head, I can send a text, but I don’t like doing it. I know I’m in the minority here. Most of my messages now are text rather than voice. Having said that, if I had texted my friend instead of calling her, I wouldn’t have got tied up in her gabfest.
Of course, one sends a text message by cell phone. For years I said I would never own one. Now it’s the only kind of phone I have, so it’s possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Sometimes I can go with the “tricks.” Sometimes I can’t.
Typing on a computer is certainly more technically advanced than using a typewriter. I no longer have to erase typing mistakes and my wastebasket is no longer full of paper with story ideas that didn’t work. That wastebasket of mine has been replaced with a delete key.
For a long time I told myself I didn’t need email.
Now, like everybody else, I have it and, probably like everybody, else get sick and tired of all the junk mail I receive.
With email comes the Internet. I like this modern technology. Several times a day I’ll do a Google search to look up something I’m interested in. With the Internet, you can get all kinds of news services, which is also good but makes me feel a little guilty because I’m not buying newspapers the way I used to. I feel like I’m contributing to that industry’s financial problems.
While I don’t buy as many newspapers these days, I still buy books. Friends and family tell me I should try out those new electronic books. I’m open to it, but for now I’ll stick to my old ways. I like turning the pages and with real books; I don’t have to worry about the batteries going out.
Modern technology has changed flying in this country to the point where you don’t need an airline clerk to process your ticket. Some kind of machine can now do it with the passengers pressing a few buttons giving it information. I’m a little vague on this, as I always fake blindness and talk to a real person.
With airline travel comes staying in hotels. If I had a choice when it comes to modern hotel-room keys, I’d go back to the old-fashion way of actually having a key. Now I don’t get a key at all. Now it’s some kind of coded plastic card you stick in a slot in the door. In every hotel where I’ve stayed the slots on those doors are always a little different than the previous hotel. I feel like a damn fool standing there trying to figure out which way to put the card in.
Sometimes modern technology is forced on us. I was perfectly content playing my vinyl albums on my old record player, but then vinyl was replaced by cassette tapes, and then by CDs. I went with the flow, but to me music sounds better with a round record and a turntable.
Are CDs becoming obsolete? Some of my friends have iPods — a little gadget that contains thousands of songs. I’ve watched people walk around with earphones listening to music. I don’t do that. I listen to music on my stereo system, which has CD and cassette players but sadly no turntable.
The way we watch television has changed, too. We can watch it now on our computer, but a lot of people like those massive flat-screen television sets that are almost as big as a movie screen, or they watch television on their cell phone, which has a tiny screen. Why does it have to go from one extreme to the other?
Still on the phone with my friend, I looked at my watch, which is now considered old technology but I still wear one. With my cell phone, it doesn’t give me the time when I’m talking on it — or, in this case, listening on it. This listening had now gone on for over 45 minutes.
Desperate to get off the phone, I told my friend I had to go and change the batteries in my iPad. While I do know what an iPod is, an iPad is just a modern technology word I’ve heard. What it is I’m not sure, but my friend bought my excuse. She said she would call me back later that night.
That night, I let the phone go to voice mail. Again, that’s modern technology I like.
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org