Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 2, 2008


Electronic gadgets should not be allowed to control our lives


          Everywhere I go I run into people whose lives are dominated by cell phones or iPods. Despite the increasing popularity of electronic gadgets, I contend these mechanical devils should not be allowed to control our lives.

          Walk down the hall and Joseph will wave but not speak. He is in another world even while working, the world of his music. What song is he listening to? Only God knows. Maybe not even God. After all, Joseph has a thousand songs stored in his beloved iPod.

          Would I want a thousand of my favorite songs in my pocket? A thousand? Not hardly. So I don’t like music? No, I love music. But 99 songs would be quite enough for me. Maybe even 49. Or 19. My Lord, who would want the confusion of trying to remember if I played Number 743 yesterday?

          Anyway, I would much rather just sit down and let Dean play some of her favorite songs on the piano. That way we both know the name of the song (that is, if I can somehow remember it as she plays).

          Gadgets are the toys of grown men – and women—but especially men. My friend Ed loves his GPS/iPhone. The friendly little thing tells Ed where he is going. Shucks, even at 76 I still know where I am going in my car. I would be embarrassed to have to ask a cute little gadget to tell me where I am headed. I have never liked asking for directions anyway.

          Ed’s little buddy has so many features that it frightens me. It is a miniature computer, cell phone, direction finder, television, dictionary, and directory. One of those buttons may even be a meat grinder. I am scared of a gadget that has more buttons on it than a telephone.

          But Ed likes it and that is all that matters. If I ever decide to buy one for my wife, I will get Ed’s advice. It is so confusing to know what to buy. Do I need one like Ed’s or the Nissan Around View Monitor or the 80 GB Zune or the N918Gb? Makes my head hurt to think about it. I think I will just settle for a road map and a pay phone.

                   I well remember the first time someone asked me for my fax number. I had no idea what he was talking about. The embarrassment spurred me to learn about fax machines. Not wanting to be left behind, I bought one. A few months later I gave it away. It caused a loud, screeching sound on my telephone. Who needs that? My phone works a lot better now without that fax machine.  

          When televisions came on the market, back in the fifties, I had barely finished college. One day I surprised my wife by bringing home an RCA television. That was before Sony discovered America.

          The cost of that TV was more than four hundred dollars. We bought it on time. By the time we paid it off, six years later, that one-eyed monster had cost me eleven hundred dollars.

          Those were the days when 33 and 1/3 records were popular. We bought 75 pounds of those records, some with songs recorded by a new singer named Johnny Cash, and others with better music by artists like Mantivani and his orchestra.

          Naturally we had to buy a record player. So bought a combination radio and record player, AM and FM. I figured it would become a collector’s item. Instead, a few years later I paid a fellow to haul it off for me. The old records are still in a closet. We are too sentimental; we just cannot throw them away.

          When John Herbert Orr came out with a tape player called an “8 Track,” guess who bought one? Yes, before it became obsolete I had one in my car. It made me feel like somebody, kind of like Ed feels when he whips out his GPS Combo.

          Orr’s bulky tape player soon gave way to the cassette player so I upgraded and installed one of them. Now that cassettes have become obsolete, I enjoy my car’s CD player

          In our home we now have a wheelbarrow load of electronic beauties. We have a receiver, a tuner, an amplifier, a tape player, a VCR, a DVD player, and even a set of headphones (for the hard of hearing – me).

          Have I given in to the urge to own a cell phone? You bet. I have one. My wife has one. Neither of us knows much more than how to say “hello,” but we are content to let our grandchildren explain how cell phones work.  

          Young folks are not as intimidated by electronic gadgets as most people my age. Nevertheless, I am not about to give up and waddle my way into eternity.

          I spent thirty minutes one day inviting a nine-year-old boy to explain his “Game Boy” to me. He was sharp. He loved it. He used it to avoid conversation with adults. I decided I did not need one. It hurt my ego to realize the kid would rather play with the Incredible Hulk than to talk to me.

          I may be slow but I am determined to stay abreast of the latest technology. I like my cell phone. I enjoy keeping up with friends by email. But I refuse to allow these gadgets to control my life and turn me into a person nobody wants to be around. We need to control our gadgets rather than allow them to control us.

          When a cell phone prevents you from having a normal conversation with a friend, it is time to turn the gadget off. If it is off, it will not ring. If I constantly answer a cell phone when I am talking to a friend, I am actually insulting my friend. I am letting him know that I am so important that I have to be available to other people rather than give him my full attention.

          One day this week I had a wonderful day. I got a lot done. I enjoyed chatting with several people. On the way home it dawned on me why it had been such a nice day; I had left my cell phone at home.

          Believe it or not, I have found that I can live a fairly normal life, without guilt or inner turmoil, when my cell phone is turned off. Silence can be beautiful at times.  

          One of the nicest things about modern technology is the caller ID. It gives me the privilege of deciding that right now I do not need to talk to the person calling. Maybe later. Maybe never. But I can choose.  

          Today’s gadgetry is simply amazing. Who can understand it all? But   whether young or old, it is a great time to be alive. And the people who are most alive are those who refuse to allow gadgets to control their lives.  + + +