I’d like to think that technology has not left me sputtering in its wake. That I am, in my small way, an instantiation of modernity -perhaps not in all ways, but enough that posterity -okay, my kids- will not be tempted to deny any genetic, let alone chromosomal resemblance. After all, I text -albeit with recognizably spelled words arranged in grammatically intact phraseology. I admit to the occasional succumbation (using the odd neologism) to the ontologically correct letter opening of ‘Dear’ and I can rarely resist signing off with ‘Love, Dad, xoxo’. But, apart from the occasional detour from the tapped path, I believe myself to be adequately succinct in my messaging, and I feel I have plumbed the outlines of texting to everybody’s satisfaction. I have blended in.
I have, though, perhaps disappointed a small cadre of elders who frequent the local Tim Horton’s restaurant brandishing their budget Thrift store iPads. Touch screens aloft, they trade Facebook secrets loudly and forget that the whole idea of social media is that they don’t actually have to meet to communicate. Me? I conceal-carry a smart phone and sit at a separate table. Watching. Listening. Oh, I occasionally pull the phone out to check the weather -just to fit in, you understand- but without a Tablet, to them I am merely quaint. Anyway, for all their vaunt, I don’t think their table is very mainstream. Not one of them even has a weather app, and I suspect they all still cling to landlines.
I once saw one of them, a bewrinkled, jolly old man with silver, thinning hair, actually whip out a paperback novel to read while he waited for his gaggle to arrive, then as quickly, shove it back into his pocket when he noticed someone approaching. By the apologetic look of the rheum in his eyes, and the praeternatural hue to his face, I assume he realized that books, too, had been digitized, so he felt embarrassed at his recidivation. And, like Pavlov’s dogs, I never saw him relapse. Opprobrium can be fatal in the very old, I think.
But it’s not with these trifles that I claim membership in modernity. When I retired, I had an epiphany. It came to me in a mall, actually. Well, in fact, it was in one of those building stores that had a 15% off all merchandise sign on the door. And not only did you get 15% off, they also promised free delivery… Whoa!
I wondered if I could get them to deliver an extension cord or something, and decided to go in and wander around. It was then that I discovered some freezers in an aisle I’d never visited before. I’ve never owned a freezer; I’ve never been one for cold, but sometimes you just have to explore the unknown. Take the road not taken. And there they were, squatting like mausoleums (or is it mausolea?) against the far wall, daring me to approach.
Interestingly, there was also a very attractive young woman engaged in exploring what was deep inside one of them, so I approached to see what she was finding so curious. It turned out that she had dropped her sandwich in it and was trying desperately to retrieve it before somebody noticed. Why she had been holding a sandwich over an open freezer was not immediately apparent, nor did the mystery resolve itself when I walked over to peek in for myself. It looked like a perfectly ordinary sandwich, although I would probably not have chosen white bread, had I been making it.
But all that is beside the point. She apparently worked at the store and seeing my interest, decided she could capitalize on her clumsiness and earn a commission by trying to sell me one -a freezer, not a sandwich. I had just eaten, I quickly informed her, in case she offered. At any rate, she used the opportunity to discuss the advantages of every domicile having a freezer in it. I think she used ‘domicile’ because of the way I was dressed -I probably didn’t look much like a house guy in my sweatpants.
She explained to me that nobody went to the supermarket more than once a week anymore, because they were freezing stuff. I kind of hinted that I enjoyed going to the store each day because it gave me someone to talk to, if only about how much meat to buy, or what, exactly, the difference was between a zucchini and a cucumber and why it mattered. I am on a constant search for knowledge, and the grocery store had become my Wikipedia. But she just smiled at me. Moderns don’t ask, she seemed to imply. They freeze.
Well, when I thought about it a little, I could see where she was coming from. I mean, you could make up a week’s worth of sandwiches, freeze them all, and then on any given day, depending on how you felt, just pick one out. And as to my point about someone to talk to, she mentioned they also sold a smart, online freezer that could recommend a choice for that day, depending on how long it had been in there.
The idea of a freezer talking to me, let alone recommending something, sounded a little spooky, and I asked her if they still made stupid freezers. At my age, I don’t want to delegate power lightly -too much like my will…
Her face lit up immediately, and she ran her eyes lightly over my face. It turns out that the sandwiched freezer, over which we were standing, was an old model -like the man in sweat pants standing in front of her- and it would accept anything that was thrown at it, or in it, without being any the wiser. Then she winked. I hope she didn’t think I was going to do anything unnatural with it.
I wasn’t sure whether or not to wink back, either. That kind of behaviour could be misconstrued, especially in front of a freezer -even if it wasn’t watching online. So I just smiled back at her politely and asked if I could have a deal on a used freezer.
“We don’t sell any used freezers,” she replied, a little disappointed with me I think.
“What about this one?” I said, pointing at the meat stain from the sandwich in its innards.
I don’t think she got my point -and I was just kidding- but she blushed anyway. But then, her eyes twinkled and the smile reappeared. “Well, suppose I take 10% off the regular price?”
I could tell I had her, and I shook my head. “20%, I countered.”
She pretended to think about it for a moment. “15%…?”
She hesitated, and then slowly nodded.
I left the store feeling I had finally joined Generation Y like her, and I chuckled to myself. Never mess with a Boomer, eh…? I may text somebody at that other table to brag at Timmy’s tomorrow.