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Help  |  Site Map or, Can You Drown While Surfing the Net?

by Rose Madeline Mula

ere we are-riding the wave of the golden age of technology!  Isn't it exciting?   Well, not to everyone.   In fact, many golden-agers (as well as middle-agers) refuse to acknowledge the entire phenomenon, hoping it will go away. 
     I know, because most of my friends suffer from terminal technophobia.  As far as they are concerned, Thomas Edison is responsible for most of the world's ills.  Electricity is a foolish extravagance which they would prefer to do without if at all possible.   In fact, one does.  Sharon lives in an unwired, remote area of Maine and makes do with a generator which she uses only for an hour or two a day when absolutely necessary. 
     And if they consider Thomas Edison a villain, that gives you a clue as to how they feel about Henry Ford.  Despite that, however, because of sheer necessity, they all do have a car in the driveway instead of a horse and buggy in the barn.  They would prefer the latter, but the old gray mare is not a feasible choice in today's environment.   Parking a horse at the mall or the local super market (both of which they abhor, of course) would be a problem.  No hitching posts. 
     In our youth, before any of us could afford automobiles or other new-fangled gadgets, my friends considered me to be quite respectable and sensible.  Not any more.   Irene and Nancy started having their doubts years ago when I acquired a touch-tone telephone.   It was bad enough that our grandparents were forced to say farewell to the friendly operator who placed their calls and to accept rotary dialing instead.  And now push buttons.  Ridiculous frivolity.  They stubbornly refuse to relinquish their old rotary phones despite their increasing frustrations with reaching Voice mail systems that require touch-tone to make menu selections.  You don't even want to get them started on that subject.  Trust me.
     Furthermore, Nancy, who lives in a three-story house with her single rotary museum piece, cannot understand why I need three phones in a one level, five room condo.  As for memory dialing, re-dialing and call waiting?   Foolish excess! 
     Then there's my answering machine.  Ridiculous.  So what if I miss a call or two, they reason.  Who's going to be calling me who's so important he or she can't call back?  My car cell phone, of course, is pretentious beyond belief in their view.  They don't buy my explanation that I have it only for emergency use.  It's true.  I'm so cheap that if I need to make a call while on the road, I'll go miles out of my way to find a pay phone first; but my friends are convinced that I spend hours tootling down the highway with my flip phone to my ear, chatting aimlessly with no one in particular, just to look cool.  And at my age.  How pitiful.   Obviously the "death rays" from my microwave oven have fried my brain.
     And why in God's name do I possibly need two television sets and two VCRs?  One TV they would forgive, since they each finally caved in a few years ago and acquired one.  Janet even has cable.   And, amazingly, Irene and Nancy also each own a VCR.  Irene received hers as a gift two years ago and has never plugged it in.  Nancy bought hers to tape her favorite PBS show in case it is scheduled to air at a time she can't be home.  However, she adamantly refuses to learn to program it.  Instead, if  the show begins in six hours, and she plans to be out all day and not home in time, she puts a long-playing tape into the VCR and starts the recording before she leaves.   The fact that I actually learned to program both my VCRs is further evidence that I must be in league with the devil. 
     The ultimate proof of this sacrilegious affiliation is my most recent depravity-my computer.   Good Lord, why?  they exclaim.    I obviously have gone completely berserk.   And they have no idea how much I paid for it.  If they ever find out, they'll cart me off to the nearest loony bin and offer novenas day and night to whatever saint is in charge of the hopelessly demented and corrupt.
     They probably think I'm using my computer to seduce teen-age boys on a chat line.  They've heard about degenerates who surf the net.  They're not sure what "surfing the net" means, but they know it's evil.  What other reason could I possibly have for buying such a device?  Yes, they know I write; but what was wrong with my old IBM Selectric?  Heaven knows, it took them years to accept even that.  "Progress" may have forced our forebears to abandon quill pens in favor of typewriters,  but why the need to switch from the Royal manuals we all learned on?  They worked perfectly well. 
     I try to explain all the wondrous worlds computers can access-all the books in the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library's reference desk, entire encyclopedias complete with audio and video, world wide news,  up-to-the-minute stock market information,  medical updates, consumer protection reports, the complete works of Shakespeare,  movie reviews, the wealth of immediately accessible travel information and the ability to make instant reservations,  genealogical data...and so much more.  Like a proud parent I tell them that my computer is so smart it actually changes its own clock from standard to daylight savings time and vice versa.   I gush about the convenience of E-mail, the marvelous graphics,  the on-line foreign languages courses, cooking demos, home maintenance tips.  I offer to demonstrate some of these wonders.  Forget it. They refuse to get within twenty feet of what they consider the infernal contraption, even if it's turned off.   Do they fear they will be contaminated just by osmosis?  Maybe if I give them crosses to hold and garlic bulbs to hang around their necks, they might risk getting closer.  Then, again, maybe not. 
     They're happy in their non-tech cocoons; and I'm too busy shopping for a scanner/fax machine/copier to keep trying to coax them out.  I wonder how this will all be resolved in Paradise.  Do you suppose we'll be given a choice of accommodations in the  Garden of By-Gone Days or the Eden of Electronic Wonders?   I know which they'd choose, of course.  And me?   Well,  they've been my friends forever, after all;  and we always swore nothing would come between us. 
     I'll really miss them.


Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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