My son gave me a record player for Christmas. Here is how it works. You turn a knob to switch on the power. You place the vinyl LP onto the turntable. You lift the black lever and guide the needle to the record. The needle drops and then—miracle of miracles--you hear music.
On the other hand, turning on my television requires an advanced degree in electronic devices. How I long for the big brown wooden box of my childhood, the one with an on/off knob and a rotary dial to select the four available channels.
In order to turn on my current (smart) TV, I must juggle three remotes, even though the salesman assured me that all I’d need was one super duper universal remote. I am a victim of false advertising. The universal remote is nowhere near as universal as billed.
So, it takes five minutes of my using lots of bad language and experiencing heart palpitations before I can produce an image on the screen. Heaven forbid that I need to do something complicated like find a specific channel or view a DVD.
Here’s my little secret: when people ask if I watch much television, I always say no and leave it at that. Maybe they assume too busy with important stuff. But the truth is that I simply don’t have the emotional energy to face the daunting task of turning on my oh-so-smart TV.
Please don’t misunderstand; I embrace new technology. I make good use of my laptop, tablet and Jambox. However, I do take deep pleasure in simplicity, a simple act resulting in a simple outcome. For example, right after college, I lived on a farm. We made our own soap out of lard. (And, yes we walked around exuding essence de beef). We built an outdoor loom and wove reed mats. (And, no we never found a good use for an 8 by 8 foot mat.) My favorite activity was splitting wood. I’d place a wedge in the center of a dry, knot-free log. Then I’d poise the sledgehammer above my head using the force of gravity to smack the hammer against the wedge. If all went well, the wood split into two lovely halves. If I missed, I’d feel pain from my teeth all the way down to my tailbone. Putting my spine out of alignment was well worth the pleasure of sitting by a fire that burned with the wood I had split.
Recently one noontime, I passed through the food court of our local mall. At many of the tables, an adult sat with one or more children. Here’s what struck me: without exception, every grown-up held a phone in hand, talking or texting or staring at a screen. No one seemed to care about developing mealtime conversational skills of the kiddos.
However, I’m not judging, really I’m not. I raised three boys. Many of our mealtime conversations consisted of, “Do not push that pea up your nostril!” And, “Stop kicking your brother’s highchair, you’re going to give him seizures.”
However, the upside of those smart phones is that wherever my boys and their families roam, I can FaceTime or Skype them. So, mostly I’m happy for the screens in my life.
After I’ve finished reading this essay, I will head home and play my Chicken Chokers Old Time Music vinyl LP on the lovely, old-fashioned record player in our family room.
P.S. If you want to read more of my essays, check out my website which I built with my own two hands. You see--I’m not such a Luddite after all.