A hopeless romantic, mired in past tech
I was e-mailing with a former colleague the other day. Oh, that rancid coffee in the common pot. Ah, the rotten pay. Golly, all those brown hairs that have turned white, or disappeared.
And wow, remember those nuts who used to call? Why, today, the switchboard would never put them through, I declared.
My former colleague roasted me.
“You are showing your age, Bob,” he said. “There are no switchboards anymore.”
How right he is. And how abruptly his comment brought me up short.
Are all my frames of reference hopelessly mired in 1967? Your honor, l plead guilty.
I have no idea what Wi-Fi is. I cannot figure out Microsoft Word. I have never used the word “download” in a sentence.
When I think of music, I visualize 45s — we called them “platters” back in the day.
When I listen to a song, the lyrics that grab me refer to trains, not jets.
Whenever I park my car, I still reach for the emergency brake — the kind that sat below the dashboard. You had to pull it out, not stomp on a pedal or flip a switch.
I take the street side when I’m walking along a sidewalk beside my wife. My mother always taught me that this is what gentlemen do. Protect them from mud splatter, she said.
I still hop to the street side, every time. It’s a deep-seated reflex — like wetting the bristles of the toothbrush before applying toothpaste, like getting to the phone before the second ring.
I still pay all my bills by check — because it was so exciting to do that when I opened my first account, way back in 1962.
Please don’t tell me that it’s easier to do it online, and “hey, dopey, you don’t need a stamp.” I know, I know.
But I get a little tickle every time I sign my name in the lower right-hand corner and let my signature trail off into a scribble, as it has since penmanship class in 1955 (somehow, I passed).
Today’s phones can do so much. Remember the last number you dialed. Take a message. Conference a call. Mute the ring.
But whenever I punch up a number these days, my muscle memory still pokes at me. A piece of my brain is telling me to pick up the receiver (plain, black), balance it under your chin, stick your index finger into the hole of the first digit, pull it all-l-l-l the way around. Then let go and do that six more times.
I still request all my consumer statements on paper. Every month, various banks and credit card companies implore me to switch to digital. Faster, easier, more convenient, more ecologically sane, they say.
But I’ve never agreed. Somewhere, deep in my 20th-century soul, there sits a little voice that tells me: “It isn’t an official statement unless you can hold it in your hand and stuff it into a file folder.”
Sports? They are more like video games these days. Basketballers who can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Footballers who weigh 320 pounds and can run as fast as people who weigh 120.
As for their equipment, I’m still startled not to see basketballers in very short satin shorts. Meanwhile, football helmets now have cages across their fronts that look as if they could stop a speeding bullet. Way back when, we never even wore mouth guards.
Food has gone way uptown. Once upon a time, an entrée was simple and unadorned. Now, everything is drizzled with something crimson and mysterious, all in the name of…art, I suppose.
As for men’s clothing, I still own 18 ties and several suits. If you can figure out what “business casual” means, please call me collect.
Speaking of calling…
I told my former colleague that I actually appreciated his dig. No longer will I pine for — or even remember — switchboards, I said.
“Next time I want to find you, I’ll send a telegram,” I told him.
“Bob, old man,” he said, “you’re hopeless.”
Bob Levey is a national award-winning columnist.