While Fogeys Browse, Youngsters Giggle
On most mornings, my wife and I can be found seated at side-by-side desks, staring into side-by-side computer screens, she on her Mac Mini and I on my laptop.
We do not look at each other. After all, each knows what the other person looks like.
But we do chitchat as we scroll.
“Obama won’t go and see Putin because of (Edwin) Snowden (the defected document leaker),” I say.
“Mmm-hmm,” she says.
“That Mike Zug! Here’s what he wrote now: ‘Donuts are created by magical elves and the ingredients are equal parts love and giggles.’ He’s a hoot!” she says, of a mutual Facebook friend.
“Mmm-hmm,” I say.
This goes back and forth for about a half-hour.
She is doing frilly, frothy chick-type stuff, commenting on Facebook, checking email messages, hunting for new recipes.
I am doing manly, save-the-world stuff, sampling news sites, and checking email messages, hunting for inspiration for articles to write. My bookmarks include Al Jazeera and, for balance, Jerusalem Post; Deutsche Welle and, for balance, China Daily; Huffington Post and, for balance, Drudge Report; Keystone Report and, for balance, Capitol Notebook.
Weightier than recipes, certainly.
One morning last month, we heard chuckles and giggles coming from behind us.
The chortling was from Mike, Maryellen’s son, accompanied by a titter emanating from Heather, Mike’s wife. They were seated behind us, hearing our patter, watching our look-into-the-monitors routine.
“What?” we asked.
“Do you two do this every morning?” they queried.
Nonplussed, we looked at each other.
“Of course,” we said. “Don’t you?”
Well, no, they don’t. Modern thirtysomething with-it Philly-area suburbanites, they both come equipped with “smart” cellular telephones. They can check email and browse the Internet from anywhere at any time without sitting at side-by-side desks. They can even check the Internet from separate rooms.
My wife and I, by contrast, have old-fashioned “dumb” cell phones that primarily make and receive calls and text messages. There is compensation: Our access/use bills are half of theirs.
And, by comparison, we are old. So we stick with computers, plural.
We do not attempt to share one computer. We both lived through the days when there was one television set in the house, and it didn’t even have a remote control. That sparked two sets of fights.
One fight came when one spouse arose, walked to the TV set, and twisted the rotary dial that changed the channel to somewhere between 2 and 13 – that’s all there were, and some of them were blank. “Hey! I was WATCHING that!” usually started the fracas.
Another fight came when both spouses were bored, half-asleep on couches or in recliners, and wanted to see something else, anything else – but didn’t want to disturb their own half-slumber by getting up and making the l-o-n-g walk (usually a dozen steps) to the TV set to manually turn the rotary dial.
“You do it…. No, YOU do it!” usually started that fracas.
Back in the 1950s, things were even worse. Imagine no cell phones, no cordless phones – and just one corded telephone, anchored to a desk, a table or a wall.
“MO-OM! She’s been talking for TWENTY MINUTES and I hafta call MY boyfriend!”
We learned from those days. We have two computers. We also got married fairly late in life, after both of us had become somewhat “set in our ways” as to how we liked to have desk space organized. I like space, while she likes stuff.
So we also have two desks.
The desks sit side-by-side, facing the north window of our middle room, because of how it used to be – just a few years ago, not decades earlier. A few years ago, modems and routers were not wireless. You might have forgotten the Ethernet cables that are still in use in some places. Since we had two computers but only one router and one modem (they used to be two separate pieces of equipment), we placed the desks side-by-side and put a small end table between them to place the router/modem stuff within cable reach for both computers.
Now, the modem/router is wireless, but the desk placements have grown comfortable.
So there we sit, each morning, near 9 a.m., typing and talking, while looking straight ahead.
We had never before heard giggles, however.
“That’s so funny!” said our visiting children, thereby downgrading what they might expect to receive at Christmastime.
They could not imagine sitting every day at side-by-side computers. So … so Twentieth Century, you know. Passe.
Well … Hmpfh on them. Next thing you know, they’ll think it’s funny that we still shop in stores, pay many bills by check, and eat in a kitchen that could have been a set for “That ’70s Show.”
“Let ’em giggle,” I said to my wife. “We like it this way, right?”
“Mmm-hmm,” she replied.
Some things never change.
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Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.