Celling Out

Here I am, feeling like this major, with-it, high-tech success.  I blog.  I email.  I write.  I even attach documents to emails, if necessary.  I can bcc, I can cc, I can forward.  On at least one stellar occasion, I also managed to attach a photo to my blog.

And then — what do I hear about that ruins my day?

First, I learn that email is passe for the younger generation.  Evidently, our Emerging Adult kids just use it to humor us.  Or to ask for money.

Instead, when they’re sending really important messages (that would be to their friends, not us), they text on their cell phones.

That’s bad enough.  But this is worse.  According to The New York Times (which is my primary information source, along with NPR and rumors), Japanese girls and young women are now writing novels by texting on their cell phones.  On their cellphones!  Evidently, one girl wrote an entire novel during her commute to and from work and it’s sold a billion copies or something.

I almost passed out when I read about that.  Writing a novel during a commute?  When I was still gainfully employed, my idea of a successful commute was when I hadn’t run into any large objects en route to my workplace.

But this kind of story is depressingly familiar.  I recall reading that Scott Turow, the lawyer/novelist, used to write his best-selling novels in longhand as he traveled back and forth to his fulltime job.  I used to think people like him existed to make people like me feel like pond scum before I went into a total shame spiral over Perri Klass, who was going to med school, having babies, traveling to Asia while nursing her kid, and writing brilliant, incisive short stories in her spare time.  I mean, who needs to know about people like this?  Life is cruel enough already.

And now, the evil cell phone saga.  I have a hard enough time using my cell phone for what God intended them to be used for — i.e., to call people.  This always requires hunting down my reading glasses so I can read the damned thing in the first place, trying to recall where the numbers are stored, punching the right button to make a call, and screaming into the phone if I’m lucky enough to get the person I’m trying to call.

In my opinion, this is all cell phones should be used for — and any other highly suspicious, gingerbread operations like photo-taking, appointment-making, higher mathematics, texting and novel-writing should be avoided.  When I see people using their cell phones, I want to be sure they’re wasting time — like me.  Not writing War and Peace or Madame Bovary.  Especially if they’re driving the car next to me.

In the meantime, if I hear about any other high-tech innovations that make me feel even more inadequate, I’ll be in the market for a quill pen one of these days.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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