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The Second Half

Alice Graves: Kindle? Nope. Call me retro, not a Luddite

My husband, who has a terrible sense of direction, just bought a GPS device. "It has Bluetooth," he told me with great authority.

"Do you know what Bluetooth is?" I asked.

"No, do you?"


The sad truth is that technology is passing me by.

I am a member of the sandwich generation technologically, between Sen. John McCain, who is proud that he learned to send an e-mail, and President Barack Obama, who uses a BlackBerry. When I think of a blackberry, I want to make fruit salad.

I'm not totally in the dark. I'm LinkedIn. I had a brief presence on Facebook, until it began taking over my life. I spent hours taking those silly quizzes to find out which biblical woman I was (Queen Esther), which color most reflected my personality (blue) and which '60s rock star I had the most in common with (Bob Dylan). I deleted my account and went cold turkey.

I've avoided the little hand-held devices.

Part of the problem is my eyesight. I can see a road sign 5 miles ahead, but I can't read the dashboard of my car without glasses. I can see my cell phone, but I can't read the caller ID, making every call a surprise.

If my cell phone rings while I'm driving or at the store, I offer to call back later, from home, when I can sit down and talk. On my landline. I can talk and drive if you're sitting next to me, but not if you're a disembodied voice. Don't ask me why.

The other day in the condiments aisle, I heard a woman on her cell phone say, "They only have the large size. Should I get it?" If you can't make a simple decision about ketchup, you have no business food shopping.

One friend couldn't find his BlackBerry for a few days and didn't know where he was supposed to be. Another friend lost her entire schedule when her computer crashed. She's a therapist who went to her office not knowing which clients would show up.

I use a weekly planner. I write with colored pencils so everything is pretty in pink and green and I know when I last had my hair cut and where I have to be this afternoon.

I listen to CDs on a CD player. I watch TV programs when they are actually on TV. I don't TiVo. I don't text. If I eat oatmeal for breakfast or I just found a great parking space, I keep it to myself. Some things in life should remain private; others are simply irrelevant.

We subscribe to two newspapers. I could read them free online, but I savor mornings at the kitchen table with my coffee, papers and husband.

A few months ago I noticed a man on an airplane reading a Kindle. I'd heard of them but hadn't seen one. It was compact and only required one hand, but I much prefer holding a book in my hands, feeling the paper, and the sense of accomplishment each time I turn a page. I also love the musty smell of old books. A hand-held screen won't do it for me, sorry.

But as much as I hate to admit it, I am lost without the Internet. About a year ago my computer crashed and I had to take it to a repair shop. For two weeks, I had no computer. I couldn't write because if I write longhand, I can't read it afterward. I felt completely cut off from the world, as if I had been lifted to another galaxy. The day my computer was returned was a joyous one indeed.

My college student son keeps all his music and watches movies and TV on his laptop. His cell phone wakes him up in the morning (mine can do this too, I recently discovered).

I am researching laptops, because it has become clear that I need one, and am discovering technology I didn't know existed. I don't need a Webcam, but I do need WiFi, which is different from a Wii, as I found myself explaining to my husband recently. With one you can get the Internet from a park bench, with the other you can dance in your living room on a special mat and watch yourself dance on TV. I spent my teens doing something similar, but with a record player and a large mirror.

My husband still hasn't programmed his GPS. By the time he does, Bluetooth may be obsolete. What's next? Greenspleen?

St. Petersburg resident Alice Graves can be reached at

Alice Graves: Kindle? Nope. Call me retro, not a Luddite 05/25/09 [Last modified: Monday, May 25, 2009 4:30am]
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