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By Staff | Oct 19, 2012

It’s taken a while, but my wife and I have finally arrived in the 21st century.

We didn’t come willingly. We were drug by the ears, kicking and screaming, like a child being hauled into the doctor’s office. We were certain it would hurt; we knew that a booster shot, no matter how necessary, would be painful.

Our youngest son needed a new phone – I can’t imagine why; we have cheese that’s older than his previous phone – so my wife and I decided to accompany him to the unfamiliar environs of a cellular store.

Turned out that they were having a sale. Since our son was getting a new unit, my wife could also have a new phone for a mere 99 cents.

All eyes turned toward my wife. She clutched her old phone like a tattered and cherished security blanket.

“But,” she protested. “I like my old phone. It works just fine. And I know how to do everything I need to do on it.”

Our son pointed out that her “everything” included merely receiving and placing phone calls.

“So?” she replied, “Isn’t that what a phone is supposed to do?”

The entire phone store sales staff grinned in bemusement. They explained how a so-called “smart” phone could do everything from shooting videos to taking photos to sending email to surfing the Internet. By the time they were done, one might think that this gizmo would also rake the leaves and whip up some hot cocoa.

For most of our lives, the word “phone” meant a device that was attached via a cord to the wall. This cord was in turn connected to a very long string that was stretched very tight. This crude communication system could be enhanced if the user also interfaced with a biologically-based software called “people.”

At the cellular store, it was impressed upon my wife that her new phone would be wonderful and that she would love the new-fangled doodad once she got used to it. She grudgingly acquiesced.

The main reason my wife and I were resistant to smart phones is because we have seen what they can do.

For instance, at a restaurant we once saw a quartet of college girls sitting at a nearby table. None of them were talking to each other; they couldn’t even be bothered to make eye contact. Each had been ensnared by the vortex of information roaring across the screens of their phones. Reality had been replaced by virtual reality. They were communicating with the four corners of the globe, but couldn’t be bothered to speak with actual friends who sat inches away.

We didn’t want this to happen to us. Besides, our lives already have enough befuddlement. We don’t need another source of confusion.

Despite many misgivings, we went home that day with a new phone. Doping out its countless functions fell mainly to me.

I quickly discovered that there’s nothing like a “smart” phone to make you feel stupid. If only we’d had a 9-year-old boy to help enlighten us.

Texting, I’ve been told, is the preferred method of communication for young people nowadays, the modern equivalent of passing a note in class. This new smarty-pants phone is supposed to be a whiz at texting, so we gave it a whirl.

Fat fingers and unrefined fine motor skills led to some bizarre texts. It didn’t help that the geniuses who designed the contraption put “send” right next to “backspace.” We inadvertently sent texts that went something like “see you tomorrpt.”

Slowly, after traipsing down innumerable dead ends, I began to make sense of the labyrinthine logic of the new phone. It gradually came to seem more friendly and less feared.

A universe of “widgets” are available for my wife’s smart phone, software that will purportedly endow the doodad with life-changing capabilities. I installed a widget that allows me to monitor grain prices, and this has indeed changed my life. Now I can check the markets from the comfort of my recliner.

In the old days, I was obliged to get out of my easy chair and walk clear across the room to my computer – a distance of nearly 15 feet.

Another widget enabled my wife’s phone to play streaming movies.

“Look at this.” I said to my wife proudly as Coyote chased Roadrunner across her phone’s display.

She squinted at the tiny viewer. “How is this progress?” she asked. “Why is it that watching TV on such a teeny screen is seen as a leap forward?”

“It just is.” I replied, somewhat flustered.

“I don’t know. I still think we would have been just fine if we had kept our party line.”

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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