A WRITER'S WIT
The events of childhood do not pass, but repeat themselves like seasons of the year.
Born February 13, 1881
A Refugee of the Twentieth Century Cries Out!
I cherish the days when I could call my doctor’s office, or any other business concern, and speak to a real person. I stayed with the “press-one-for-this” era for a long time because I knew I would eventually reach flesh and blood, a voice that would help me. I even learned the trick of pressing “0,” which would bypass the menu and take me directly to the operator, receptionist, a live one! Ha, tricked you.
But the other day I called my primary care physician . . . and the “0” stunt failed to work. The only way to reach a real person, the recorded voice declared, was to leave a message. If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911. The she-voice obviously didn’t own a cell phone. “You dial 911,” I screamed into my message, “because by the time you call me back, I will have cut my throat.”
In a calmer state, I read online that all of us—even us dinosaurs from the last century—can still maintain plasticity in our brains by learning new things. And I think I agree. I should keep reading. Writing. Constructing things. Being with people. Playing the piano or some other instrument, and learning a new piece, not just reworking all the old ones. I should learn how to maneuver new software, one that helps compose and score music, one that edits video or film footage. Play video games. X-box. PS4. Rah, rah, rah. These are the things that create new space in your brain.
But let me share with you, dear doctor, what I’ve also learned: that it is easier for you to email or voicemail someone than it is to speak with one of your clients.
If you call a particular department store, one whose name shall remain a secret, their Tech division, for example, to get help with one of their forking appliances, you get a voice that can’t be any older than twenty telling you: You’ve reached our Tech Squad. No one can take your call at this time. We’re all busy helping customers like you, but please leave your name, number, date of birth, and we’ll get back to you soon as we can. The person speaking turns and says to a companion, in a rather rude aside: Don’t wait for hell to freeze over. (Cascades of mirthful laughter follow.)
Then I realize . . . I might get through faster on Facebook. Yeah, I’ll just post this little ditty: Why don’t you friend me by answering your phone!? Or what about this twit: Hey, world, do you even know what a crappy place _______ is to shop for appliances?
PREACHING TO THE CONVERTED
At this point, I don’t want anyone to think I don’t love what technology has brought to me. I worship my iPhone! It’s not my phone as much as it is my calendar, my stereo cabinet, a photo album, a camera, a calculator, a notepad, a clock and timer, a newspaper stand, a library, an atlas that helps me find my way in the world, a weather guide. I could go on about film aps, restaurant aps, wine aps. Whew, why would I want to go back in time?
I have the same adoration for HDTV: 450 stations. I can record up to two hundred hours of programming in HD and watch them on my fifty-five-inch screen! Movies, premium TV series like Girls and Looking. My life is perfect. Why would I wish to return to a time when one used a black rotary phone and was proud to have it, when one had three TV stations, four if you counted PBS? Houses and cars without AC? I don’t think so.
Still . . . I would like to get through to any of my doctors, thank you very much, or, I should say, his or her receptionist or nurse. Keep it real, man . . . woman. Talk to me. Now . . . if you have the time, please!
FRIDAY: NEW YORKER FICTION 2014