Just cleaned off my desk in my home office/loft/shit mitt and lo and behold, there actually is a flat surface underneath it all. After two days on the couch with my laptop on my lap, to give my back a break from my chair, I’m back to work at an official work space. All ready to conquer a mountain of writing about tiny computery parts and the companies who make them, I run into a problem: the next door neighbor is jackhammering his walkway into rubble. Until now, working from home has been a great test for my capacity to ignore. I can ignore a dripping faucet, a dog obsessed with licking himself, a woodpecker determined to break into the attic from outside my window and even the buzz of the dryer alerting me to fact that there are clothes to be folded, but I can’t ignore a jackhammer.
So, I do what any legal adult would do when they need to check out of the present moment and it’s prior to noon; I reach for my iPod. I always go with my initial, gut feeling as I scroll through the menu. Today, of all the 43,972 selections to choose from, it was Pink Floyd that caught my eye. Now, I’m listening to the sound of jackhammering and getting angry for the orphans of London. Why can’t they just leave the kids alone? Crap. This really isn’t working for me…
Maybe I’ll just do a little daydreaming. That ought to kick start the creative juices I need to begin writing about solder pastes and tin whiskers with the sort of flair our clients expect. In other words, I’ll try not to drive anyone to pull a Foxconn. (In case you haven’t heard, Foxconn, the China company who contracts with Apple to put iPads and other gadgetry together, installed nets around the massive, dormitory-laden factory because employees keep jumping to their deaths. Turns out, 35-hour shifts at 31 cents an hour is pushing people to the brink – literally. Check out the report by Jon Stewart here.
Ok, back to surreality. Let’s see… what is there to daydream about on this fair, almost-February morning? Aha! I’m eligible for my phone upgrade tomorrow and I’m throwing it all in for an iPhone – albeit last year’s model at the sweet price of $50. 3G is good enough for me. I just want to be able to find out where I’m going when I’m lost, how I can get my hands on some sushi when I’m out of town, and of course, play Words with Friends. I don’t really know how it works yet, but I plan to modify it into Dirty Words with Husband.
As technology goes, I’m not one to camp out in front of the Apple store. I had my Classic iPod for three years before one of my students informed me that I could download movies. That was three years ago and I still haven’t done it. Then, my brother told me about podcasts. Right now, I’m just thrilled that I finally have something to replace my Sony Walkman, which replaced the beige Realistic transistor radio that I used to toss into the white plastic basket on the front of my purple Schwinn bicycle — the one with one gear.
My kids and their relationship with technology is another story. It’s all they know. They will never walk across a room to turn a channel. Heck, they’ll never experience the satisfaction of successfully talking a sibling into getting up and turning the channel for them. They’ll never know what it’s like to not be able to see the TV while having an important phone conversation while holding a toaster-sized, two-headed “receiver” to their ear, while standing two feet from the phone base that is attached to the wall with a little curly cord that can be endlessly stretched and twisted, or wrapped around your leg until your foot turns a cool shade of blue. They’ll never know the supreme joy of FINALLY getting a princess trimline phone in any color they want, with its sleek, ultra-modern design that can actually travel all the way across the room with them because someone has finally made a 20-foot phone cord! Oh, the joy!
Modern technology at their fingertips robs them of precious critical thinking opportunities. For example, gone is the opportunity to feel the terror of making the decision to wait until the moment they are supposed to be home to call and ask for more time at the park with their friends. I could have left the swings, or climbed down from the tree in plenty of time to walk home, ask for more time, and then walk back. Instead, it was the same dilemma, weekend after weekend:
“Let’s see, do I run home right now and get there ten minutes late, or spend five minutes begging a dime off a stranger and then five minutes searching for a pay phone that works? Then, if she says no, will I still be in hot water for not being home on time?”
By the way, the answer to that last question was yes.
Yep, cell phones sure do take a lot of stress off kids. On the flip side, they sure do have the potential to bring more stress into their lives if they aren’t handled with maturity. It’s one more way to get into trouble in class, one more distraction that discourages homework, or walking across the street without tripping, or walking at all because they are content sitting on the couch texting their friends. Like Tosh.O, or Cialis commercials, or anything else kids have access to these days, with a little parental guidance it can all be put into perspective.
I sure did enjoy those days of having no ties to anything. My parents couldn’t call me and ask me what I was doing, or tell me to come home early because I didn’t clean my room before I left. Once I left the house, at the tender age of 10, or 11 or whatever, I was gone, baby, gone, until the designated be-home time. I loved the feeling of being off everyone’s radar.
Kids didn’t need cell phones to stay safe back then. My friends and I had a plan in case some pervert started chasing us down the street. Again, critical thinking in action: The plan was that we’d run up to the nearest house and ring the doorbell. No, wait; we’d just blaze right into the house and explain what we were doing in the middle of some stranger’s living room. Then, they could call 9-1-1, just as soon as they were done dismembering the last fool who walked in their front door.
Luckily, we never ran into too much trouble, except for the time a guy pulled up in his car next to us as we crossed the street in front of the neighborhood ice cream parlor and asked for directions to the local high school. As I politely gave him the left-right-left deal, my friend noticed that his johnson was hanging out of this shorts. As I said, “So, then you pull into the first parking lot and —“ she yanked me by the arm and we ran, laughed and screamed all at the same time. A block away, we stopped running and I asked her what was up.
Then, she told me.
A cell phone probably wouldn’t have done much good at that moment. Sometimes there’s only time to run. Not a bad life lesson. Sometimes, your feet are the best tool at your disposal. Just ask Fred Flinstone.