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The Next Electronic Adventure

My New Electronic Adventure

I asked Brendan if he knew about his namesake.  "Yes," he replied, "you mean the navigator."  I've seen the replica in Ireland of St. Brendan's leather boat in which he is reputed to have sailed to Greenland centuries before Erik or Christopher "found" the New World. 

    That exchange with Brendan at the Verizon shop at Corbins Corner followed my slightly excessive blessing on the techie as My Savior.  In telecommunications, not eternity. 

    We leave for Amsterdam Tuesday.  After a scenic canal cruise we shall embark on the river boat Amadeus for a five day voyage down the Rhine, making several stops along the way to Basel, Switzerland.  There, among the clocks and chocolates, we begin four days of rail trips through, quite literally, the Alps.  As exciting as this trip is, I find in my seniority a certain trepidation, not about my mortality as much as temporarily severing connections with the home folks and the little white creature who pines in our absence.

    To mitigate this mild anxiety I purchased a cell phone with international capability.  Of course, I justified the expense with the thought it might prove useful in Vermont as well as in Europe.  It's a smartphone; no, not an IPhone, a Droid.  Hey, I fancy myself an electronic maven.  A new phone should be no big deal.  What did I know!?  What I didn't know (and should have) is that every great leap forward in electronic technology requires a new set of skills.  The old dog has to learn new tricks.  Eighty year old fingers have to navigate a tiny keyboard eighty year old eyes can barely see.  There are millions of apps; but, what on earth or in a lower place, are apps? I've got a lot to learn, and I shall... God willing and the cricks (in the neck) don't rise. 

    Coping with the latest technology has been an aggravation since the invention of the wheel.  My mother never did get a driver's license.  Some elderly congregants on Long Island refused to turn in their dial phones for ones with push buttons.  I can only imagine the host of Gregg-proficient secretaries who have retired rather than get up to speed in Word.  Such reluctance reminds me of a certain preacher (maybe you know him) who stoutly defended longhand and typewriters in the 1980's claiming he found no compelling use for the computer in church administration.  The old dog turns up its nose at the bone rather than jump through new hoops. 

    The pastor of my home church in the late 1940's railed frequently in the pulpit against VIDEO.  A stalwart, moderately teetotaling Methodist layman with a twinkle in his eye asked him, "Dr. Jones, that video you complain about, what kind of drink is it?"  Say this for Dr. Jones: his car, thanks to the insistence of his son, was the first in the town of Stamford to have seat belts... twenty years before they were required.  Safety, I guess, is never a sin.

Better to go at life and the unfolding future with an open mind.  Discoveries of delight may just find you.  Like the operator of the sawmill who provided us with lumber for the underpinnings of our Vermont "camp": forty-five years ago, then in his sixties, Mr. Carpenter showed up on our hill with a bunch of 12  x 12 sills, keener than any taciturn Vermonter should be, to report his latest gustatory discovery, gorgonzola, pronounced with syllabic stresses no Italian would understand.  Had we ever tried it?  Well, yes, at Manero's on Steamboat Road in Greenwich back in another century when Connecticut Yankees were beginning to fall in love with Italian cuisine.  Old woodchucks maybe are more teachable than old dogs.   

    Back to the Droid: my problem is one I've struggled with for a lifetime.  I'm heavy-handed, literally.  Ask my adversaries on the basketball court.  Early on I bent out shape my share of Parker 51 pens.  When I typed a letter, the "t's" and "h's" chopped holes in the paper, but the "p's" and "q's" were faint.  The computer keyboard initially produced documents with everything doubled, spaces, letters, and punctuation, so long did I press the buttons. Thank Bill Gates for autocorrect. The smartphone requires finesse.  Not my forte.  When I touch the screen, chaos ensues.  Apps fly by.  The wrong phone contacts are called.  Passwords take three times as long to enter on the miniscule keyboard.  I shall persevere.  Either that or, like that regrettable verse in Psalm 137 proposes, I'll dash it on the rocks.  Nah, only if Verizon Wireless grossly errs in its calculation of charges.

This new electronic adventure occasions the remembrance of the forty year rule first tested in the Sinai desert on the tribe of Israel.  Yahweh decided that, due to their fascination with the golden calf and their incessant complaining, they should remain in the wilderness until a generation escaped this mortal coil.  That is, it takes about forty years for old ways to pass and new ways to flourish.  Grandpa James Howard never drove a car; my dad, however, was a whiz at fourteen; and his son has taken cars for granted for the past sixty-four years.  My pastors inveighed against Video and tonic; but I tipple.  My fingers stumble all over the smartphone; my grandsons whip it out to get directions and authoritative answers on Google.  Sic transit miseria mundi.

    One question remains.  Just as Chester Gould anticipated the smartphone with his wrist TV, will the next generation find themselves crediting Star Trek ("beam me up, Scotty") for anticipating the latest mode of transportation, teleporting?  Not likely to be my next electronic adventure.  Maybe yours?

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