By Jack Cawthon

August 12, 2004

I love technology! My dependable Smith-Corona electric typewriter never lets me down, except sometimes it doesn't expel the best word usage; my Dodge Dakota with its often tricky carburetor is still to be preferred over raising the hood and seeing only airplane parts; my transistor wired black-and-white TV hardly flickers; and my wife of many years, an excellent design of miniaturization at only a little over five feet tall, has performed efficiently far beyond her warranty expiration date.

Some people may think that I'm a little behind the times, maybe somewhere around 50 years or so. Quite possibly I won't have enough years left to move completely up to the computer age.

It isn't as if I haven't tried. For example, I just bought one of those cell phones, where to save money, you pay only for calls, instead of a monthly contract fee. Ha! You pay all right! You pay in mental anguish through your efforts to get it "on the air" online. And as tight as I am with money, I can better sacrifice it than the limited number of brain cells left over after years spent in a mental institution, such as the leading one in Morgantown.

I must blame my Barbecue Run neighbors, Margie and Wyene Turner, for my own deficiencies. Margie, who has had such a phone for some time, said it was simple, but simple is a slippery word, especially when it applies to me and my efforts. In my case, it's as "simple" as playing computer games with Bill Gates.

I was never very good with numbers, one reason I ended up in journalism, as I could never get the college course numbers aligned correctly to get into any other field. To get that cell phone "on the air" requires lots of numbers, and for some reason in the proper sequence, or it won't operate. Wyene encountered the same problems I did, but I'm certain not with the same intensity. However, she has a delicate feminine sensitivity, and more patience, as well as the good sense to persist with a toll-free number for assistance, and, I doubt, didn't use the same words with the same results as I did screaming at the computer and the non-human on the other end of a land line.

She finally made it to "air time." I hesitate to bring it up, but by my hanging around economists who were committed, but more deeply, in the institution the same time I was, I learned that all efforts carry a "labor cost." I'll admit that time slows down a mite on Barbecue Run, but still Wyene's efforts if gauged in hourly rates, however minimum, would probably result in cheaper fees by going to Ma Bell, or one of her traitorous children. There is still the "challenge" of buying additional time with the necessary phone cards which must also be programmed, and if allowed to lapse by a time limit, going through the whole procedure of getting the phone back in operation. Whew! For me, that's like dialing 911.

So, give me another 50 years and I might be able to operate a phone without wires, without becoming wired myself. Barbecue Run has certainly changed since I left there, which does cause me a certain amount of anguish and a sense of guilt, as perhaps I should have left sooner to further progress. But, hey, a nine-year-old doesn't realize those things at the time! But, we weren't entirely without technical progress during my stay. There was the old wall crank telephone, which, even as a tot, I could give a few turns and reach a neighbor across the hill or one down the holler, and all without knowing numbers. It may be with the infirmity of age that I view life as simpler back then. It could be that I was simpler back then and never progressed further.

You may be wondering that with all my backwardness how it is that I am appearing on a computer screen. Ah, that is a wonder of technology. After I write this on my electric typewriter, I go to the computer where I have learned to press the right spot for "Words," a clever enough direction that I found after much practice. I then retype all this with the computer keyboard, generally ignoring all the little red lines under words as I feel I know more than a stupid computer, and if it insists, I simply scream at it "Shove it!" which if a First Lady in waiting thinks a reporter can understand, I feel is good enough for a computer to understand, as the two have a lot in common, as in lack of common sense.

Next comes the wonders of technology in its simplest form. I yell for my bundle of genetic tech, bound by the laws of yesteryear when it was quite common to marry one of the opposite sex, and she comes in and puts in some codes or symbols, Masonic or otherwise, and addresses it to "Bob at Hur Herald, dot com, which proves how well he is known world wide as neither a last name, a box number or zip code is needed, and often mutters something about "detachments," as she doesn't always approve of what I write, and, viola, as they say in music, it comes out here.

But there is more to the story, which may end happily ever after. I decide to appeal to the customer service representative at Walmart, where I bought the phone. I ask, rather timidly, if she has had any complaints about the object of my affliction. With a glint in her eye, she replies, "Yes, my aunt!" And I begin to feel that I have been fraternally accepted. She tells me to bring in my proof of purchase, and I will receive a refund. I already have plans for that refund. I intend to take my technology mate out to a fine restaurant, and she can choose either the one with Golden Arches or the one that does it our way, and buy her a full-course meal, with the dessert of her choice. Considering the value of my time spent worrying over technical matters, the refund will be free and clear as the hours she saves me in "labor costs" will just about cover the check for the meal.

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