Nothing makes you feel older faster than buying a new cell phone.
I haven't exactly been on the cutting edge of the electro-geek movement. The IT people had to sneak into my office at night to replace my old computer, even though the new one was faster, smarter and only a little harder to lose.
I avoided cell phones throughout my working life (if they can't get a hold of you, they can't tell you to do anything or yell at you for anything you did), and I only got one when I retired because I reasoned that it would help me play more efficiently.
Still, I stuck with the most basic, no-frills models, leading my children and younger friends to observe that I might have the last steam-powered cell phone in existence. (Not so. I wouldn't have known where to put the wood into the fire thingie that goes under the boiler.)
Now I have the top-of-the-line (at least for my carrier) phone that is supposed to allow me Internet access, keep track of my appointments, let me know about the weather anywhere in the country, tell me where I am when I am lost (geographically, not existentially) and on and on.
I was already feeling old enough.
Driving down Interstate 75 to the cell phone store I began wondering if my van, which is basically held together by liberal bumper stickers and duct tape, had another 4,000-mile round trip to Colorado in it. Bets at my garage are that I should take the title with me just in case, because it makes junking it easier.
And my van as metaphor for my life was an easy notion to play with to occupy the time. Usually I recite poetry and Shakespearean speeches for entertainment, but even I get bored with that after a while. Unlike friends for whom I perform at cocktail parties, I didn't have the option of making an exit and walking away — not at 70 miles per hour anyhow. (And that, when you have my bumper stickers, is EXACTLY how fast you drive.)
But the van and I have a lot in common. We are both old. We both leak fluids at inopportune and sometimes costly times. We both operate by virtue of having replacement parts (a heart valve for me and just about everything made of metal or rubber on the van). Our fuel and water pumps don't work as efficiently as they used to and sport patched hoses. The parts we have to see with or through aren't as clear as they once were and the joints between us and the ground make weird cracking and rumbling noises when we move.
We both start more slowly in the mornings than we used to and we stop (really grabby brakes) more quickly and frequently than we, or at least I, want to.
It makes me kind of sentimental about parting with my old friend and the 100,000-plus miles I have put on it since I bought it used seven years ago, but I might have to go to my favorite Dade City used car lot and trade it before I leave for something newer, smaller and less hungry for gas. Otherwise, I'm apt to wind up in Texas buying something from a used car lot with a lot of dirty red flags flying from a rope around its perimeter, and owned by some guy who uses "Honest" in his name.
(And, yes, I am staying away from Crawford. I don't know what that guy is doing these days, but I don't want to risk buying any of it from him.)
The visit to the phone store interrupted my reverie and I was waited on by a polite young man who handled the phone like a magic wand, making delicate passes across the touch screen as the telephone performed one magic function after another.
I always use words like "Luddite," "computer illiterate" and "electronically challenged" when introducing myself to people in that capacity. They always concentrate on making me feel smarter than I am.
"Please tell me," I said, after we closed the deal, "that there is a really thick idiot-language manual that comes with this phone."
"Not here," he said, "but that's okay. You can get it online. In fact you can just go to your home page, use your browser, go to the Web site and then," he added with a triumphant smile, "you can download it to your phone and access it whenever you need it."
There was a lot of loud crinkling of the 3-foot-long strip of paper you have to mail in to get the rebate mentioned in the small print under the price on the brochure, so I don't think he heard my response, which probably sounded something like: "Ummmmmmm?"