I am trying, I am trying, I am trying to keep up with technology. This goes about as well as my repeated oaths to eat more vegetables, something I pursue with grim determination and lots of Hollandaise sauce. This is good for me! I need to do it! Forget about enjoyment and joie de vivre– just do it!
With technology, I do what everybody of my generation seems to do: I think my own level of involvement with the high-tech world is just perfect — just enough without overdoing it. So, I’m a bit impatient with people my age who don’t slavishly devote their lives to email or troll the Internet or use cell phones in the limited way I do. Don’t they know what century this is? Don’t they know the world’s going to leave them behind if they don’t get online regularly?
“What kind of moron doesn’t know how to text?” my friend Stephanie snapped when I was in Dallas. “I mean, how hard is it?”
I was, of course, exactly the kind of moron who vaguely knew how to text, but did it rarely. (That tiny keyboard! I had to find my reading glasses! I kept making stupid typos!) What’s so wrong with calling people, instead, I kept wondering.
But, after a few days of extreme social pressure from my friends Stephanie and Maria and the realization they’d think I was a low-tech loser if I didn’t text, I kind of got into it. The minute I began texting regularly, of course, I began to feel sorry for anybody my age who couldn’t get it together to thumb a few messages every day. How sad was that?
The point, obviously, is to try to make yourself do something till you feel comfortable about it. But God, getting comfortable is so hard and — let’s be honest — I hate change. All of which brings me to the Kindle.
I have a Kindle. I bought it on an impulse in May, when we were still in New York and about to begin traveling. I didn’t have the upper-body strength to schlep around all the books I wanted to read. A Kindle, light and portable and versatile, was the answer. Besides, it would show people how with-it I was. To prepare myself for this big change, I’d already read every book I’d recently bought. No excuses!
The day after the Kindle arrived — looking compact and easy to operate — my father died. I knew what I needed. I needed to go to the bookstore and buy some novels. I needed something I could hold on to and cling to. Books have always served that purpose for me. They comfort me and make me feel safe. At a time like that, I wasn’t going to bother arguing with myself; I also didn’t have the energy to learn to operate a new appliance, no matter how simple. So I went to the bookstore and came home with an armful of books. When I wasn’t collapsing on the couch, staring at re-runs of the first season of The Sopranos, I was reading. I left the Kindle, still partly packaged, in the kitchen where it couldn’t stare at me reprovingly.
It’s been six weeks since then. I haven’t bought any more books, but I stayed with friends who kept pushing hardbacks they’d read in my direction. Who was I to disappoint them?
The Kindle sits — patiently? impatiently? it’s hard to tell. I know I need to leap the divide and rid myself of my unwieldy, old-fashioned dependence on books. I know that, once I get used to it, I will love the Kindle with its high-tech ease. I know, I know, I know. But in the meantime, my arms only reach out so far and there always seems to be an inviting, unread book within reach. The Kindle is newer, glitzier, modern, but, even after all these centuries, it’s still Johannes Gutenberg who has my heart.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about how to spend your day not writing: a tried and true method