INCURABLY RETRO

Rip van Winkle, Washington Irving’s 18th century carefree Catskills character, had to deal with the results of his 20-year snooze. Rip had a whole lot of catching up to do after two decades of being out of the loop. I’ve had a similar experience. I wasn’t asleep for 20 years, I just wasn’t paying enough attention.

I was almost as befuddled as Rip who’d dozed off as a British subject and woke up as an American citizen. In my case I conked out mentally sometime before the 21st century and “woke up” late last Tuesday. Well, you know how annoying those TV ads can be and how easy it is to mute them. I wasn’t keeping up with all the advances in gadgetry. There was a lot of such talk among my cyber-oriented kids and grandkids, but I didn’t pay much attention or ask questions.

It’s the same with modern fashions. I’m still wearing 25-year old outfits that are a little tighter now but good enough for me and other like-minded geezers. We’ve been accused unfairly of having questionable taste, but we’ll have our revenge. We’re quite sure bell bottoms, nehru jackets and spats will make a comeback soon.

The technology advances have been the most difficult to grasp. I remember fearing we were in the grip of an ear infection epidemic because so many people were walking around holding one side of their heads. They seemed to be in such pain that they were talking to themselves.

Eventually, I decided I had to get to the bottom of this and, while shopping in a mall one day, I spotted one of the head-grasping afflicted, a younger man wearing a T-shirt with a peculiar slogan: “I’m so cool, I’m hot!”. I approached him cautiously. “Excuse me,” I said, “Is that a transistor radio you’re holding?”

“Are you kidding, mister?” He replied. “This is an iPhone.”

“Well, if it’s an eye phone, why do you press it against your ear?”

“You’re putting me on, right? An iPhone is a touchscreen smart phone capable of video calls. It might have a telephoto camera and can browse the Web. Some models have even more features. This one is equipped with gesture recognition and I hear they’re working on body sweat recognition.”

I didn’t understand much of that, but to be polite, I wanted to say something complimentary. “Wow, that sounds a lot better than my Walkman, but can it play audio tapes?”

He had a frightened look and I think he was punching in 9-1-1 on that thingamajig to report an escaped lunatic so I left in a hurry and decided to call my wife to tell her I might be in trouble. But wait a minute! What happened to all the phone booths?

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