By Lynn Paris
If I ever start reading my books on a Kindle, please slap me. Seriously. It’s not that I haven’t been tempted. But I’m so unbearably “wired” right now that I need to cling to the few remaining low-tech pleasures in my life for as long as I possibly can. And there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, like settling in with a new book.
I don’t know about you, but mine arrive now in boxes, from Amazon’s assorted booksellers. They come in groups of three or four, and it’s always a thrill to open the box. Always a surprise, too, since I generally don’t remember what I ordered. I treat each like a gift, carefully smoothing its edges, re-reading the jackets and reviews, and finally deciding which one will be first.
What world do I want to inhabit for the next few days? Will I choose suburban America in the 1950s . . . the underbelly of the new India . . . the waning aristocracy of early 20th century England? What amazing feats of style and poetry; what clever twists of plot, which finely drawn characters, or painfully beautiful use of the English language will I be drawn to first? Believe me; I consider this all with great care.
That’s because the remaining hours of my day will be devoted to things far more mundane. Of course, I’ll write dozens of speeches for my job. Some will be applauded; some not, but sadly I will know that none is great literature, or even great speechwriting. And to think; I had visions of Peggy Noonan dancing through my head when I began. Occasionally—although far less often than I should—I’ll write a column. Every twelfth one will be a gem, and the rest will be adequate, but sadly, none will be great. In fact, in this age where everyone is a writer, I daresay that none is as good as the best blog I’ll read today.
Throughout my day I’m a slave to technology. I don’t know how that happened, but that’s the way it is. At least nine hours every day find me interacting with my computer. I may be attempting to be creative, or reaching out to a friend, or scanning as many tweets, updates and blogs as I can stomach, but it’s all done on this machine. Or at least it was . . . until I got my blackberry storm. I am now permanently attached to the thing.
It was bad enough before. Because I work from home three days a week, I have always carried my house phone around with me in case the office calls when I’m away from my desk . . . in the kitchen . . . getting the mail, or . . . well, yes, especially when I’m “indisposed.” I always had a regular cell phone, too, but it wasn’t particularly “smart.” I left it pretty much alone and it did the same with me. It was for emergencies only.
Now that I’ve upgraded to the blackberry, it seems like suddenly it’s everyone’s preferred method of communicating, so I have to carry it wherever I go.
Before, I might miss an email if I stepped outside to scoop the poop, for example. I might answer it ten minutes later than it was sent, and that made me paranoid. Now, my red light flashes, the vibrating starts, and I know the moment I receive an email or a text message. I’m permanently attached to my blackberry, which is pretty much like being permanently attached to my computer. I am never alone.
Of course, this is a small price to pay for the privilege of working from home most of the time. But with a phone in each hand, I find I’m a lot clumsier than I used to be. The alternative is to put it down, but when I do, I invariably forget it and have to go back and retrieve the darn thing. And it never fails. It happened just a few minutes ago. I had left my blackberry on the kitchen counter, when I suddenly heard a far off but familiar ring. It was my office, with an emergency. In the time it took me to get up and find it, I had missed a call and a text message. I called back immediately—elapsed time 5.6 seconds—but the experience simply reinforced my need to be permanently attached. Does anyone else remember when fax machines were a miracle of instant communication?
On the other hand, was there ever a more convenient way to stay in constant touch with friends and family than the blackberry? It flashes, and there’s my darling friend Matt, making me laugh. Flashes again, and it’s my best friend from New York, the one who can barely use a computer. My husband texts to tell me he loves me; he’s in the next room but it’s nice to hear from him. Still, with messages coming in all the time: at the grocery store while I’m trying to focus on my shopping list . . . at the mall, so Jim and I can find each other again after he left me for the food court . . . it’s no wonder I yearn, every once in awhile, for some good old-fashioned “un-wired” time.
In fact, I yearn for my book, and the peaceful moments spent in that other world. I chose India’s underbelly, by the way. The book is “The White Tiger,” and it is a powerful, intense, and brilliantly conceived work of art. I long to escape into it for more than two minutes. And I can; it’s the weekend. I don’t HAVE to know everything’s that’s going on. Just ignore the flashing red light, ignore the flashing red light, ignore . . . but I can’t. I’m hooked.