LAKE MACBRIDE— It has been a while, more than a year, since the television has been turned on with any regularity. I fired up the tubes to view President Obama’s address to the nation on the campaign in Syria, and occasionally we follow extreme weather, but mostly the set rests darkly in the corner, collecting dust.
That’s not to say we disconnected. We cut back the service to basic cable to save a few budget dollars, and maintained what we had for the bundling with Internet service. With the recent demise of my laptop, and acquisition of a desktop to replace it, I have less screen time generally. The computer has become a work station in a life with many of them— a post-television life of screen time.
Early on, I realized the boon to productivity that was word processing software. It’s hard to believe how much time was spent typing and re-typing a finished paper or article on my Smith Corona and Olympia machines. I kept the typewriters for sentimental reasons, and don’t know if I could find a new ribbon should I want to use them again. While we lived in Indiana, I bought a word processing machine and produced some documents that survive, including a journal— electronic word processing was a miracle.
On April 21, 1996 we bought an Acer home computer and logged on to the Internet at home for the first time. Making the decision to add the $25 monthly subscription to an already tight budget was a big deal. There’s no going back now, and communications services is a big chunk of our monthly budget, one I would like to cut back on.
Now there’s the hand-held mobile device with an Internet connection and many applications. It is used mostly to check email and news, and every once in a while, I make a phone call. Owning this machine has made a laptop less relevant, and communications with people who matter easier.
With the conversion of the industrial economy to one based more on services, the most important element, one that changed everything, has been constant human contact. At the warehouse, I interact with hundreds of people each day when working a regular shift. At the orchard, on a busy Saturday I will greet 500 people or more. It is this human contact we crave, despite how it drains energy from our day.
When we lived on Madison Street, before I entered first grade, I longed to stay up and watch “You Bet Your Life” with Groucho Marx on television. My parents would not allow it for reasons that have become obscure in the river of time. Partly they felt I should be in bed by 9 p.m. when the show aired, but there was more.
As I moved through the grades and left home, television viewing was always a second tier activity, one for after a day’s work was done, whether it be school work or a shift at a job. When I lived in Germany I bought a television late during my tour of duty, and got rid of it after a few months. There is no going back to television now. I’d rather spend my time with people, and see the diverse human experience for myself.