What It’s Like To Be Techno-Backward

Image by Ken Denmead

Gray-haired guys in line ahead of me at the coffee shop manage to text with casual ease, order fabulously complicated drinks, and still pay in one smooth motion.

I’m too cheap to have texting as an option on my phone and too clumsy to text anyway. I’m not confessing anything about dropping change I meant to put in the tip jar or knocking over a rack of biscotti (although really, that display was clogging up counter space).

The upside of no texting? I read, write, and relax uninterrupted at that same coffee shop while all around me tiny rectangles brrrr and thumbs tat in a scene remarkably similar to old sci fi depictions of humans controlled by robotic forces.

The downside of no texting? When I make cell calls I tend to leave messages. According to the hilarious (frightening) site How Not To Act Old leaving voice mail decidedly marks a person as well beyond her 20’s. Of course, the casual observer could tell that about me from my boring hair and tendency to knock over biscotti.

My techno-backward issues don’t stop there. I also don’t download music. I haven’t even successfully installed iTunes on my computer. Although the small “i” in iTunes reminds me, quite pleasantly, of the poet e.e. cumming’s aversion to capital letters, when I try to install it I get an angry (not at all poetic) warning message. In contrast, my son’s 80-something bagpipe instructor pirates and shares music. When he discovered that I don’t, he told me in his thick brogue that he’s glad someone still props up the music industry by purchasing CD’s.

Without an iPod, the soundtrack to my daily walk is only wind in the trees. But really, if I learned how to collect music in handy digital form I’d waste hours doing it. I’d cheerfully search out lost tracks from vastly unappreciated musicians like Frazier & Debolt and Brett Dennen. I’d linger over the task, adding an array of opera, Scandinavian pop and Mongolian throat singing. Then with my short attention span I’d probably weary of each piece after one listen. In contrast, I still enjoy the sound of wind in the trees.

I’ll admit to enjoying anything uncomplicated. I don’t own a laptop yet, in part because I’m still not particularly savvy when it comes to my old anchored-to-the-desk computer. I only get by because I live with tech support. I happen to love these people but their presence here is also vital to my career. If I don’t get immediate help when trying to deal with simple problems like unzipping old files sent by certain sadistic editors I fall from my Inner Peace Mom standards pretty quickly. I shriek threats at the blamelessly blank monitor screen. That scares the dogs sprawled at my feet, which activates my ever-ready guilt, forcing me right out of the house and off for a walk with wind as my soundtrack. Or, if the tech problem is really serious, off to a coffee shop where an innocent display is surely perched, waiting for me to knock it over.

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.