Five years ago, I didn’t have a cell phone. Three years ago, my cell phone could only be counted on to make phone calls and send text messages. Today, my cell phone can be used to check e-mail, surf the web, maintain a calendar, listen to music, watch movies, play video games, forecast the weather, and calculate directions. Not too long ago, I would have seen these features as luxuries. Today, I see them as virtual necessities. At the very least, they make things easier for me. So when my phone started acting up last weekend I became concerned. For a moment I glimpsed an awful future in which I might be forced to…I don’t know…read books or something.
Archive for August, 2010
Two days ago, I shlepped over to the hardware store and bought a box of “contractor bags.” I was suspicious of their toughness and wary of their price, but I needed something sturdy to hold basement debris. Yesterday, I joined my wife, mother-in-law, and aunt-in-law (a real term?) in ripping copious amounts of tile from my basement floor and several sheets of drywall from my basement walls. We threw everything in the trash bags and…they worked. They were thick and rubbery and almost impervious to harm. I don’t think they would have held an Orca – even a baby Orca – but they sure did the job when it came to sharp-edged basement junk.
My wife’s 10-year high school reunion is approaching and she has mixed feelings about it. She’s not eager to impress her old classmates; in fact, she already stays in touch with her good friends from high school. She’s also Facebook friends with almost everyone else she might want to chat with, so the reunion seems beside the point (open bar, notwithstanding). Regardless, she’s bought one name-brand dress (at a thrift store) and convinced me to buy another boutique-made dress (for her birthday). She’s also been working out twice a day in anticipation of the reunion. Maybe there really is something about seeing your old classmates in person.
My grandmother was born during the Depression and (possibly as a result) had a habit of picking up coins on the street. Be it a quarter, dime, or penny, she would stop in her tracks to pick it up. I learned from her example and have been pocketing found change since I was a child. But unlike my grandmother, I have my limits. A few weeks ago, I was riding my bike when I spotted a dime. But I was in the middle of an intersection and the light was about to turn yellow. Also, my wife was riding close behind me and a car was itching to turn right as soon as we sped past. I thought about stopping to grab the dime but, fortunately, thought better of it.
“Be careful what you post.” That warning has become ubiquitous among parents, teachers, mentors, and others who counsel teens on a regular basis. Today’s middle-aged brain is thoroughly taken with the idea that errant Facebook comments, drunken party photos, and immature blog posts could come back to haunt people. The Internet, the thinking goes, is forever. It’s a sobering sentiment, but in the long-run it might not be true. Sure, a prospective employer could scan your Facebook page tomorrow, see a photo of you smoking a bong, and decide not to hire you. But will that Facebook page define your life 20 years from now? What about 100 years from now? There are many ways to build a legacy in this world, but amassing web ephemera doesn’t seem to be one of them.
Sometimes words lose their meaning through overly generic use. “Awesome,” for example, was once used to describe moon landings and atomic bomb blasts. Today, it’s used to describe sports highlights and snappy, smart-ass comebacks. Twenty years ago, “irony” was used sparingly, in reference to the exact right thing happening at the exact wrong time. It had a narrow (and therefore useful) definition. Today, it’s used to describe things that are only slightly askew. (“I forgot to tie my shoes this morning. That’s ironic.”) Perhaps this is unavoidable. As today’s 9 Chickweed Lane points out, even an innocent expression like “aw” can get caught up in the meat grinder that is the English language.
For the record, here are the actual headlines from today’s Chicago Tribune: “Big on shrimp: Tips for buying and preparing America’s favorite seafood” — “Riding on the wind” (accompanied by a photo of a tall ship) — “Chicago housing market dries up” — “Special Olympics won’t let teen play on team” — “No baby boom now: Illinois birthrate falling” — “Border crossers perish at record pace” — “McCain wins primary” — “Gator to be extradited to Florida.” That’s a pretty weird mix of stories. The front page isn’t exclusively focused on war, poverty, and despair, but it’s also not fishing news pleasant. I guess we’ll have to settle for a world that’s somewhere in the middle.