At my home office desk, ready to conquer a mountain of writing about tiny computery parts and the companies who make them, I run into a problem: the next door neighbor is jackhammering his walkway into oblivion. Until now, working from home has been a great test for my capacity to ignore. I can ignore a dripping faucet, a dog obsessed with licking himself, and even the buzz of the dryer alerting me to fact that there are clothes to be folded, but I can’t ignore a jackhammer.
So, I do what any legal adult would do when they need to check out of the present moment and it’s prior to noon; I reach for a piece of technology (you thought I was going to say beer, didn’t you?) As I scroll through the menu, Pink Floyd catches my eye. Now, I’m listening to the sound of jackhammering and getting angry for the orphans of London. Why can’t they just leave the kids alone? Crap. This really isn’t working for me…
Speaking of technology, I’m not one to camp out in front of the Apple store. I had my iPod Classic (it was a gift) for three years before one of my students informed me that I could download movies. That was four years ago and I still haven’t done it. Honestly, I’m just thrilled that I finally have something to replace my Sony Walkman, which replaced the beige Realistic transistor radio that I used to toss into the white plastic basket on the front of my purple Schwinn bicycle — the one with one gear. Just recently I graduated from my “free upgrade” phone to an iPhone 4. I’m done with dumb phones. With four kids, I have no time to be lost, or not know where to get my hands on some sushi when I’m out of town. I also want to play Words with Friends. I plan to modify it into Dirty Words with Husband.
My kids and their relationship with technology is another story. It’s all they know. They will never experience the satisfaction of talking a sibling into getting up and turning the channel for them. They’ll never know what it’s like to not be able to see the TV while having an important phone conversation while holding a toaster-sized, two-headed “receiver” to their ear two feet from the phone base that is attached to the wall with a little curly cord that can be endlessly stretched and twisted, or wrapped around your leg until your foot turns a cool shade of blue. They’ll never know the supreme excitement of getting a princess trimline phone in any color they want, with its sleek, ultra-modern design that can actually travel all the way across the room with them because someone has finally made a 20-foot phone cord! Oh, the joy!
The way I see it, modern technology constantly at kids’ fingertips robs them of precious critical thinking opportunities. For example, gone is the opportunity to feel the terror of making the decision to wait until the moment they are supposed to be home to call and ask for more time at the park with their friends — just like I did as a kid. I could have left the swings, or climbed down from the tree in plenty of time to walk home, ask for more time, and then walk back. Instead, it was the same dilemma, weekend after weekend:
“Let’s see, do I run home right now and get there ten minutes late, or spend five minutes begging a dime off a stranger and then five minutes searching for a pay phone that works? Then, if she says no, will I still be in hot water for not being home on time?”
By the way, the answer to that last question is yes.
Yep, technology may take a lot of stress off kids, but it sure does have the potential to bring more stress into their lives if it’s not handled with maturity. It’s one more way to get into trouble in class, one more distraction that discourages homework. However, like Tosh.O, or Cialis commercials, with a little parental guidance it can all be put into perspective for them.
I sure did enjoy those days of having no ties to anything. My parents couldn’t call me and ask me what I was doing, or tell me to come home early because I didn’t clean my room before I left. Once I am-scrayed, at the tender age of 10, or 11, I was gone until the designated be-home time. I loved the feeling of being off everyone’s radar.
Kids didn’t need cell phones to stay safe back then. My friends and I had a plan in case some pervert chased us down the street. Again, critical thinking in action: We’d run up to the nearest house, blaze right in the door, and explain what we were doing in the middle of some stranger’s living room. Then, they could call 9-1-1, just as soon as they were done dismembering the last fool who walked in their front door.
Case in point: a guy pulled up in his car next to me and my friend Michelle (we were 11) as we crossed the street one day. He asked for directions to the local high school. I politely gave him the left-right-left deal, not noticing his johnson hanging out of his shorts. As I said, “So, then you pull into the first parking lot and…” Michelle yanked me by the arm and we ran. A block away, we stopped running and I asked her what was up.
Then, she told me.
A cell phone probably wouldn’t have done much good at that moment. Sometimes there’s only time to run. Not a bad life lesson. Sometimes, your feet are the best tool at your disposal. Just ask Fred Flinstone.
Images From – The Microsoft Office Clip Art Collection
A version of this essay was originally published at – www.surrealhousewife.blogspot.com
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