Pining for life in the days before everything went wireless

December 05, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

The 14-year-old corners me in my downstairs office, which is where I go to get away from kids, not that it ever works.

"You should get a BlackBerry," he says.

I don't want a BlackBerry, I say. I don't want an iPod. I don't want a personal DVD player with 3.6-inch screen.

I don't even want my cell phone.

I wish we still read by candlelight and churned our own butter.

"A BlackBerry keeps you in the loop while you're on the go," the boy says.

You sound like a commercial, I say. Like the evil spawn of T-Mobile's Catherine Zeta-Jones and the geeky Verizon "Can-you-hear-me-now?" guy.

Anyway, I don't want to be in the loop.

Or on the go.

In fact, whatever the opposite of that is - out of touch and sedentary? Isolated and stationary? - that's what I want to be.

I wish cars still had running boards.

And the milkman still delivered door to door.

"With a BlackBerry, you have Internet access wherever you go," the kid says. "You could keep up with the latest news."

I keep up with the news just fine, I say. That's why they have newspapers. Fifty cents and you get all the news you want, plus the crossword puzzle, horoscope, TV listings and a thin coating of ink on your fingers.

And if I need more news, I turn on the TV and catch the 11 Investigates I-Team and the 11 Insta-Weather Team with the great Tom Tasselmyer, and even the 11 Traffic Pulse Team and 11 Sports with Gerry Sandusky.

Tell me something, I say. Is Brooks still playing third for the O's?

Is Johnny U still slingin' the pigskin for the Colts?

"Think about this," the boy says. "You're late for a meeting. You need directions to the site. Click a few keys on your BlackBerry and you have Mapquest right at your fingertips. And detailed directions."

No. 1, I say, I'm not much of a meetings guy.

No. 2, when I need directions, I pull out a regular road atlas, such as a Rand McNally Maryland state map, printed on thick, cream-colored paper that is virtually impossible to re-fold, the way God intended.

You look at where you are on the map. You look at where you want to go. You figure out the best route.

What could be easier?

Lewis and Clark used paper maps. Remember them? Magellan, Marco Polo, Lawrence of Arabia - all of them were paper map guys.

I wish doctors still made house calls.

And men wore fedoras.

"A BlackBerry would cut down on all the paper you carry around," the boy says. "You're always writing little notes to yourself. You're always scribbling to-do lists."

Let's get this out in the open right now, I say to the boy.

I like writing notes to myself, OK?

And I like scribbling to-do lists on scraps of notebook paper and cramming them in my pockets.

Besides, there is no better feeling in the world than doing something on your to-do list and then crossing that item off with a bold line from a blue-ink ballpoint pen.

The sense of accomplishment is incredible.

Can you get that kind of high with a BlackBerry?

I doubt it.

Then again, you can't get a shoeshine in a pool hall anymore, either.

Or listen to Creedence Clearwater Revival on 8-track tapes in a '69 Pontiac GTO.

The boy is silent for a moment. He's dealing with a Luddite and he knows it, and the missionary zeal that he initially brought to the conversation is flagging.

"I don't suppose you'd be interested in the BlackBerry's wireless data access?" he says.

No, I say. I'm tired of wireless data access - and I don't even know what it is.

All I know is, I don't want to press any little buttons. I don't want to see any little icons.

I don't want to text-message anyone.

I don't want to IM anyone.

I don't want to play any video games with super-enhanced graphics.

I don't want to use the address-book function, or the calendar function, or the memo-pad function.

"Well, then," the boy says.

Thanks for stopping by, I say.

I think we bonded there for a moment, although sometimes it's hard to tell.

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