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Secret Life of an Expat: Low Tech Thoughts

Photo by Voxphoto

I didn’t cry when my great grandmother died. It freaked me out that death had come, leaving her empty body in the laz-y-boy, smelling like old lady and old clothes. The air that lingered in her mouth would have been cold and dry and sour. That’s what bothered me. But a few days later, I walked across our navy blue carpet in the den to find Dad plugging in a 19-inch color television. He had bought it with his inheritance, all of his inheritance I believe. It had a knob that you pulled out to turn it on, then you turned it clockwise to increase the volume. There were two larger knobs, one that went from two to thirteen, incorporating our three local stations: six, eight and thirteen, plus Maine Public Television on channel ten, and New Hampshire on eleven. The other knob, UHF or VHF, I never understood what that was for.I remember impatiently dialing numbers on rotary phones. If you went too fast, you’d have to start over because the original number wouldn’t dial all the way up. Then you had to wait for the little disk to spin back to its starting place before you could put in the next number. What a relief it was when the phone company started providing push-button phones. They were so fast, and you could make music with them. Sometimes I just punched numbers to listen to the noises, and occasionally the line would start ringing.

No one appreciated it when random little kids called them.

But back then you could call anyone without getting caught. You could call a boy and listen as his mother got annoyed, “Who is this?” Boys never answered the phone. One time (after the first Pee Wee Herman movie came out) I got all my friends to call the radio and request “Tequila Sunrise.” Finally the d.j. at WBLM announced on air that he did not have a copy of “Tequila Sunrise” and would we PLEASE STOP CALLING. We were almost famous. But after that, star sixty nine and then Caller ID ruined everything. It was the beginning of the end of anonymity, and now there is absolutely none.

Now we have to watch our actions or else people will think we’re stalking when we’re only being a little weird. Looking at pictures of an ex-friend, or wondering what ever happened to an old classmate. I occasionally like to look at the pictures of people I haven’t seen in a long time. They are often people I have nothing to say to in real life, I’m just curious about how they turned out.

For those of us born in the 70s technology has moved very fast. Our first computer came when I was eight, around the same age that my parents got their first TVs. Now, people my age have their own eight-year-old kids, and a large percent of the population makes its living writing code. They speak the secret language that makes computers go and their kids are born knowing how to use a mouse. But I’m so on board. I feel sorry for people who have regular old cellphones and not smart phones. I have chosen sides in the Mac vs. PC wars, even if it does make me a fashion victim (as my husband, the Dell owner, says). I haven’t had a job that wasn’t dependent on a computer since high school, when I worked at a yarn shop and tallied the sales on a calculator (not exactly an abacus but I could have done it by hand).

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a good thing or not, all this digital interconnection. What would happen to us if it all went down? Would I be able to work if I didn’t have email and Wikipedia? Would we become more or less creative?