Before Disney and crowd took over 42nd Street in New York City and disneyized it, I was cutting through that way during a vacation.
A man of questionable looks and intent sidled close to me as I was walking He said in almost a whisper: "Coke. Meth. Pot." I ignored him and kept walking. "Girls, guns." I ignored him again. Exasperated, he finally said audibly, "What DO you want?" "Nothing," I said. "I am just cutting through." His face and voice confirmed he could not believe it. It just couldn't be true.
Friends of mine, especially those in their 20s, have that same disbelieving voice and look when I tell them, "No, I don't own a cell phone." They, on the other hand, can't live without one.
So far I have gotten to this ripe old age without cell phones, beepers, answer machines, call waiting, call forwarding, salad spinners, cruise control, fuzz busters or Palm Pilots. I especially don't have one of those devices around my waist that pushes at the fat and makes it melt away and gives me a six-pack. I already have a six-pack. It just happens to be in the refrigerator.
Don't get me wrong. I am not the rider in the horse-drawn carriage cursing the new-fangled automobile or the would-be UNA bomber waving my fist at technology.
I must admit that until I got my new truck the other year, I drove old beat-up $500 VWs and could have used a cell phone when I broke down at midnight on a long stretch of dark country road.
I have just not bought all the devices. Whether my world is better for it or worse I have not given much thought.
Like most Southerners, I must admit I love to talk and love to hear myself talk. But I am also honest enough to say that nothing I have to say can't wait until I maneuver through the traffic and get to that little black phone on my desk. I see mothers and wives holding shirts in department stores, describing them over flip phones to someone before they buy them. Darn it, make a decision and live with it. That's what they make the exchange policy for.
I do enjoy the little technology I do have. The channel changer is one fine device. My hand knows even before my mind that I am bored and it instantly brings in a new program for 30 seconds before I move on.
I swear this is true, since you can't make stuff like this up, but I was at a friend's house once and he was frantically looking for the channel changer and said, "If I don't find it, we're going to miss the start of the game." I thought he was kidding, but then realized that he had never known a television without a flipper. I stood up and went over and changed the channel. "You know," I said, "There are knobs on the television so you can change it by hand."
I was sitting in a bar in New Orleans some years ago before the explosion of the use of cell phones and a customer came to get change for the pay phone. When he was out of ear-shot, the bartender said to me: "The two things the beautiful people in New Orleans can't pass without using are mirrors and phones."
The phone companies have succeeded in convincing us that we can't live without cell phones. Kids are running up huge bills. If they have to stand in line for tickets or some other needed thing, they used to interact with those around them, socializing. Now they immediately call a friend and they chat, thus avoiding any interaction with anyone other than close friends. It is also easier in a waiting room to yak for hours rather than reading a book.
Just like the chatlines on the Internet, much of these words spoken are conversations about nothing. Technology now has it so you can use that little phone and talk on the chatlines, thus doubling the "Whatsup? Kool" conversations they get to have.
Rod Serling, the inventor of "Twilight Zone" wrote a short story years ago about an astronaut on a distant planet who had a robot woman as a companion. When they came to get him and bring him back to earth, they told him there was only room in the spaceship for him and not the beautiful bucket of bolts he had been interacting with for years. He couldn't live without her. He told them to go back without him. He would stay forever with "her." Just as the spaceship roared out of sight, he looks around and his robot goes "booiiinggg."
I guess that had a profound effect on me without knowing it. The fear that one day the technology will all break and I will have to get out of my chair and change the channel again. Yikes.
Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257 or email@example.com.