As a spokeswoman for the over eighty crowd, I’d have to say that technologically speaking it isn’t that easy to explain what’s going on especially since I hardly know what’s going on myself. When I was a young married woman at home with a couple of little kids, and a career I had chosen became something of a bust, I introduced myself to technology through the back door. I took up a private study of time/motion. My husband had recently asked me never to cross a picket line, but I was still puzzled by the unions dislike of the whole idea. It sounded good to me, and I believed it might help me to do the housework more efficiently. Since I didn’t own any of the conventional aids to the housewife at the time, a dust pan for example, I really did need to make the most of whatever abilities I had just to make sure that my husband would have a good dinner in a clean house.,nd strange as it may seem sixty years later, the dinner and the clean house had actually become my priorities.
Another young woman, given the same priorities, might have been happy enough just to get to the end of the day, but I had another priority because I had another goal. I wanted to read all of nap time. Perhaps, I thought, the new study could help me to achieve that goal. As I finished each task, as I noted down the extra minutes taken up by a burp that wouldn’t burp, a knee that got skinned, an orange that needed to be peeled, I came to understand that life could not be broken down into cold hearted sixty second increments. I began to understand that I really needed a dustpan to use instead of a carefully folded piece of typing paper. It did open my eyes, and as improvements in the course of daily living came along I began to welcome them all.
I’m not sure how many of my friends have shared this particular experience, but I think theirs was probably similar, a slow, human sort of progression that took us right up to the mobile phone. The mobile phone was just a step up from the TV remote, a place where most of us got stuck. When I was born my mother’s phone had a receiver they took off the hook. The hook released a connection to a wire that carried messages from many strangers but by some miracle a woman’s voice meant just for my mother came on the phone, and the voice said, Number Please? Then my mother would say, Kenwood 0685. A series of rings followed. Several people might answer and my mother might say she was calling Mrs. Hay. And Mrs Hay would answer her phone and say, as we still say when we answer the phone, Hello.
Most of us in the over eighty category started out with that kind of a phone, and, unconcerned with the implications of these changes, we kept right up to them, up to and including the mobile phone you had in the house and walked from room to room with. At about the same time the computer began to be spoken about as something anyone could use, not just the astrophysicist at Harvard. I got one and learned how to use it all by myself. When the next blow fell, the blow, I think that changed us all in our ability to cope, it was the true mobile phone, the cell, and even now, although I understand it is about to be dismissed in favor of texting, neither I nor many of my peers have learned to use one. Now when new inventions come to light we can be seen shaking our white heads and admitting that we can’t do it. I’m sure that’s why Wanda didn’t know what blog was. That reluctance to catch up may be due to our much slower thinking processes, but it could also be realization that such improvements have very little to do with our essential humanness and our essential mammalian nature, a nature that keeps us perhaps more grounded than we as civilized human beings would like to be, threatening us with becoming less than we are.