In January President Obama told the press. “I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry,” using the word “scuffle” to describe what was going on between him and his lawyers. I looked that word up: “A rough disorderly struggle at close quarters.” The President went on to say, “They’re going to pry it out of my hands.” He won the battle – he is, after all, the President. He gets to keep his cherished device on his hip, but with “enhanced security.” I’m not sure just what that means, but every message he sends or receives will eventually be open to public scrutiny. My guess is that he will think twice before he hits the “send” button. That would be a good practice for all of us who use email.
I’m sympathetic with our President. I lost my BlackBerry at an airport in Russia last November, and going without it for two weeks was almost as hard as giving up smoking (something else the President has been scuffling with). It’s also an addiction, and not so good for the health of your thumbs. But I like it and am glad no one wants to take it away from me.
This brings me to the subject of gadgets. Take the ipod, for example. Everyone seems to love it, but I don’t. The idea of walking around all the time with those things in my ears doesn’t appeal to me, and I’ve noticed that people who have them on – on the sidewalk, in the elevator, wherever – don’t seem available for conversation, or even for “Good Morning.” Besides, my hearing aids get in the way.
Then there’s the cell phone. Not only has that become part of our vocabulary, but it has spawned a new term – “land line” – for what we used to call the phone. Now there’s an addiction. You can’t walk down a street in any city without seeing people, especially young people, talking on their “cell.” The same is true in hotel lobbies, airports and bus terminals, restaurants, and practically everywhere else. Part of going to a movie or concert nowadays is the introductory request to “turn off your cell phones and all other portable electronic devices.”
It used to be that when you saw someone talking to himself you felt sorry for him – “poor guy, he’s hearing voices.” No more – he’s just on his cell, which is so small you can’t see it. It’s not just the phone that is “mobile” – it’s the phone’s owner. When you call someone on their cell, the first thing you ask is, “Where are you?” I hope schools start teaching a course in cell phone etiquette.
Then there is the modern car. In former times, cars were to get from here to there. Now they are computers on wheels. I have a car with a GPS, another gadget that seems very useful. I tried it out by asking how to get from my house to my office. I got the wrong answer and haven’t used it since. The car also has a camera in the back, for when you’re in reverse gear, but I don’t trust that either. It looks like you’re not even close to the car behind you, but you are. The camera doesn’t know about distances. So, it pays to turn your head, just like you always have.
I do like the car radio, which came equipped with Sirius-XM. You can listen to anything you want, including sports, politics, full-time Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson or Frank Sinatra, or classical music or jazz or show tunes. If you want to know what you’re hearing, it tells you. Just the other day, I was listening to the “Broadway Musical” station and wondered who that great singer was. So I checked, and it told me – “Dorothy Loudon.” I liked knowing that. She created the role of Miss Hannigan in the Broadway musical “Annie,” for which she won a Tony award. She grew up in Claremont, down the street from my grandparents, and her mother was my piano teacher.