A few days ago, as Dee, the Mistress of Sarcasm, and I were enjoying a spot of lunch in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, I could not but help noticing an elderly couple tootling away on their smartphones.
Except for the wrinkles, bent postures, and slow, shuffling gaits, one could have easily mistaken them for a couple of teenagers. I almost expected them to take a selfie, complete with semi-obligatory duckface.
“You want duckface? I gotcher duckface right here. Now fuck off.” [Photo: Buzzfeed]
There is no reason why technology should be something reserved solely for the young. I know a ninety-one year old gentleman who is a regular morning minyan attendee at our synagogue (he divides his time roughly evenly between our shul and the local Chabad), who still drives a car quite skillfully, and who has no problem navigating the ins and outs of the Internet and his various e-mail accounts on his smartphone.
And then I think of my late Daddy, the estimable Eli, hizzownself, who was old-school all the way... at least when it came to Ars Electronica.
He had no trouble adapting to digital technology when CD’s (remember those?) began, slowly and inexorably, to displace long-playing vinyl audio discs. But in the office, he still dictated letters to a secretary, and used a shoulder rest in order to allow him to perch a phone next to his head. I’m surprised he didn’t develop the habit of walking in circles. (I’m also surprised that he didn’t use Dixie cups and threads in lieu of telephones.)
It was difficult enough to convince him to get a cellphone for emergencies. He and his wife would make the round-trip drive to Florida every year, and eventually they allowed that yes, it would be prudent to be able to get in touch with someone just in case THEIR CAR, GAWD FORBID, WERE TO BREAK DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING OKEFENOKEE SWAMP. So there was that.
But a smartphone? You know, like all the Kool Kidz are carrying around these days?
No Frickin’ Way.
Strange, innit? I mean, my grandparents all were perfectly happy to use newfangled contraptions like telephones and television sets... and automobiles, for that matter. None of them would have said “Get a horse!” to the guy on the next street who just bought a beastless carriage. But Dad was different. What was it that made smartphones and computers such objects of Fear and Loathing?
I mean, aside from the fact that they suck all the data out of your house and bank account and feed it into giant enterprises run by the government, the Russian Mafia, and Amazon?