The Digital Age

My parents have been roaming the earth for around eighty years. Actually, they roam mostly in their zip code but the age is spot on. While they may not have the wandering spirit, they thankfully do not fall into the stereotypical luddite category that many people of their generation embrace. In fact, they have been computing for over 30 years. First came the Timex Sinclair, followed by the Commodore 64, then a fax machine (which is still operational), followed by a continuous succession of ever increasing computing capacity, keeping in lock-step with Moore's Law.

Through the late 90's I took full advantage of the aforementioned fax machine and would often send my parents a fax from a random number, usually at the prompting from my roommate at the time. It typically involved a cryptic message annotating the goings on from where the fax originated. And the goings on was typically a party where some host just happened to be as technologically hip as my parents.

Their addiction/affinity to modern communication methods probably grew as a natural extension from the telephone. Dad, being a fan of auctions, yard sales and the like would often come home with gems someone else wished to cast off. In the 1980's, wireless phones were in vogue and hard-wired telephones were scooped up for pennies. When a new (previously owned) phone came in the house, we wired up another room and this cycle kept repeating until we had wired every room in the house right down to the master bathroom.

I remember sitting in a Spanish class in high school and the teacher was asking questions that could be easily answered in said language. She asked how many phones I had in my house. I pondered a moment and said, "trece." The class stared silently and the teacher made an attempt to correct me as she was certain I had misspoke. I don't typically say a lot in my native tongue and even less in a foreign one so I quickly abandoned Spanish and clarified that we indeed had at least thirteen phones in the house, all capable of receiving calls in any language. And had we not disabled the brass ringers in a majority of them, the sound of thirteen phones ringing at once could have summoned Alexander Graham Bell himself.

I've had a cell phone for many years now but rarely use it for actual phoning. My wife and nanny recently dragged me into ultra modern communication methods this January by insisting that I install Whatsapp. Their argument was that it was a cuter way to send text messages than plain old texting. It wasn't long after installing this app that I received a message from an unknown source. It read, "I don't know how to take pictures yet, or how too send them. I just now figured out how to look at messages." A few minutes later, a blurred image showed up which resembled something Jackson Pollack might create and it revealed no clue as to the origin nor identity of the sender. The entire message chain smelled like a scam.

A few days later my dad dropped by the house and while we were talking, he casually retrieved a smart phone from his coat pocket. I instantly realized the cunning phishing attempts I had received earlier in the week were from my mom, clearly she thought Whatsapp was cute too. My parents went hi-tech on the down-low and were now fully immersed in the world of cryptic messaging and talking to inanimate objects in lieu of typing.

Wife and I were up late that evening talking about the technological ruthlessness of my parents. We somehow got on the topic of bell bottom jeans and how everyone wore them in the 70's. I indicated or rather blurted out that there was no way my dad wore bell bottoms. Wife said he had to, it was the only style available for purchase. We went back and forth on this debating whether he did or didn't when at 1:45am we used the "cute" app and texted him. We waited and laughed for several minutes pondering the possibility that my parents slept with their phones. It turned out they did not. No amount of cellular wizardry was going to penetrate old school slumber and the answer finally came at 9am, "Slacks not jeans."