This past week I promised to endure a technology time-out, and failed on an epic scale. We had decided it was time to give my daughter my old phone, so I got a smartphone last week. Not the best conditions under which to begin! Not only did my technology “fast” rule out email, instant messaging, and live streaming video, but even the most basic CD player had to be avoided.
Which made me wonder–what would happen if Mill, my book character from circa 1975, arrived on the scene smack-dab in 2015 and requested my help? Here’s my take on Mill’s first visit to the 21st century:
The man approached me where I stood consulting my phone in front of a suburban Old Navy store, his walk betraying his inner-CEO in operating mode.
“Excuse me, I can’t seem to find a pay phone anywhere,” he said, smile valiantly trying to put me at ease.
I slipped my phone into my purse and made eye contact, my words emerging in fits and starts. “Uh…they all got ripped out years ago. Do you want to use my phone?” I reached inside my capacious bag to help.
He stopped me, his hand glancing my forearm. “Oh no, I couldn’t ask you to interrupt your day,” he said, as if apologizing for a major inconvenience. He offered a smooth hand to shake.
“I’m Mill Fairbairn. And you are?”
“Good to meet you, Mill. I’m Julie Hadler.” I wasn’t sure why, but I felt I’d just met an elderly man, though Mill clearly carried less years than I.
“I’ve been out canvassing–have a flyer. I’m a candidate in the mayoral election and I really need to contact my campaign manager.” He handed me a white piece of paper on which light purple words marched across the page in pica font.
“I’ll be getting something better than mimeographs soon, this is all I could afford right now.”
Mimeographs? I read the crowded page, confusion setting in.
“So, Julie, maybe you could help me another way–would you happen to have a map on you, or be able to give me directions? I need to get downtown, and I’m hopelessly lost.”
Mill pulled out a little notebook and pen while I dug out my phone and touched Google Maps.
“Oh, we misunderstood each other. I don’t need a calculator. I’m fine there. I just need directions to…” He consulted his notebook. “3345 N. Clark.”
Hoping to streamline the strange encounter, I typed furiously. “Um, sir,” I turned around my phone and held it up about six inches from his nose. “It’s all good, I already got the address on Google Maps.” Poor soul must be from a third world country. Funny, he didn’t have an accent.
Mill’s neck arced back, Dracula recoiling from a crucifix. “What’s that? It looks like a tiny robot-computer-thing.” He wheeled around and scanned other passersby. “Am I on that Candid Camera show?”
I couldn’t stifle a snort. “You mean, a hidden camera show? No, it’s just my app.”
He seemed to be sorting through mental files. He lowered his head near my phone and face and whispered. “This isn’t a film shoot, is it? I’ll pay you to edit this out. I mean, I kinda sounded like an extra on a Doctor Who episode for a minute.”
My confusion mounted as I backed up a few paces, considering if, rather than an immigrant, the man was AWOL from his inpatient detox program. “Listen, I’m not the film editor, but maybe you’d feel better after you eat something.” I rummaged round until I found the protein bar in my purse. I offered it to him.
“Oh, thanks, but I try to stay away from candy bars.”
“It’s just a protein bar, are you diabetic?”
Mill seemed puzzled and gestured his intent to change topics. “I know, maybe grabbing a cab would be the easiest way–I think I saw a couple earlier. Thanks anyway, it was nice to meet you, Julie.”
I shrugged as he strode to the curb and looked down the block. In less than a minute, he successfully waved one down and stepped in. The weather was hot, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw the cab’s windows begin to lower. What I did not expect was the thunderous yell that reached me even as the cab rolled away.
“Aaaaah! Did you see that? The windows…they just went down…all by themselves!”
Items referenced here and unavailable in 1970’s (which I did not avoid using this past week): cell phones, high-speed photocopiers, cell phone apps, protein bars (unless you were a hard-core body builder) and remote-controlled car windows.