By Dosi Cotroneo
Recently I got to thinking. What kind of a world do we live in where a person is at the mercy of remembering a score of PIN numbers,
passwords, and user names? A world where a seemingly mature, intelligent, and sane adult woman can venture out for the day and feel
independent enough to feed and clothe herself and fill up the gas tank.
Humiliation, degradation and downright embarrassment is what I felt as I drove away from the Harvey’s drive-thru on Merivale Road leaving behind my veggie-burger, fries and Coke . Why you ask? Simply put – I, like millions of women before me, left the house with only two things – a credit card and a lip stick. The new shiny card was just asking to be broken in, so before embarking on a day of vigorous bargain hunting, I decided to try out the new Visa. Now, what was that PIN number I chose? I know you’re supposed to write down your PIN and keep it in a safe place, and as always, I did not follow instructions carefully. I thought I chose the name of one of my four cats, followed by a number, an asterisk, and possibly an exclamation mark. Or was that an ampersand?
By the third attempt, the Harvey’s clerk was shaking his head in disgust. The card had now flatlined and I had no choice but to cry, beg, and plead that I would return with cold hard cash if he would only let this hungry Italian mother enjoy her veggie burger, fries and Coke on the house, if only for 20 minutes. “No can do” was all he said as he slid the window shut. Skylar, Panda, Kiwi, Rusty – my beloved four felines – where did I go wrong? Could it have been that I chose the name of one of my two cats that possess five characters in their name? I could not for the life of me remember. Now what to do about the rest of the day? How could I continue with my vigorous shopping expedition with only a lipstick in my purse, a flatlined credit card, and a rumbling empty stomach?
In my quest towards cultivating a simpler life for myself and the family, I decided to look towards my elders for wisdom. Afterall, they live block away from the Harvey’s and I was sure Ma had rustled up some yummy grub for lunch; perhaps rapini, roasted peppers and potatoes, leftover chicken, or homemade pizza were on the day’s menu. After close to 50 years in this country, my parents are not the proud owners of one single PIN number, password or user name. No cellphones, fax machines, laptops, desktops, tablets, Ipods, or any of all of the nonsense that has clouded our very existence. The beige rotary telephone sits comfortably on the telephone table in mother’s sun room. There, she leisurely places her daily calls to family and friends, never worrying about where she left her cordless or the battery dying out. No need for call display, call waiting, call forwarding, or call answer – if it’s important enough, they’ll call back is their philosophy.
No signs of internet, fancy cable t.v. packages. Besides basic cable and their Rai and TeleLatino, these two are “living the life” from their Lazy-Boy recliners. No need to upgrade that cellphone plan, waste countless precious hours talking to colleagues and friends about service providers, data plans, how to get out of a mobility contract, or where to find the best deal on the latest smart phone.
Truth be told, all of this technological verbage is downright exhausting! Yes, I’ll admit it, I am on Facebook, and of course I could not possibly survive without my internet, email, call display and cell phone, but do I have a choice if I want to live among the land of the “connected?” It is the way of the universe it seems. If I want to stay “connected” be it for work, socially and even to reach family, I have had no choice but to become part of this fast-paced technological revolution. I cannot fathom the stares of disbelief I would receive if I told the world I did not have a cellphone, a laptop, or knew what Social Media was. And what to do about those hours I fritter away in a wireless internet café, hoping to write that
next novel…I suppose I could plant a vegetable garden, after all Spring is coming and that would surely make the parents proud of me – wouldn’t it?
I suppose I could wear my Blue Tooth while digging, planting and watering those prize-winning tomatoes. Oh, I do so miss the days of the old Bell phone store at Billings Bridge Plaza and Carlingwood Shopping Centre where I loved to peruse the newest colours and styles of rotary dial phones. And when touch-tone took over the market, well, it was an exciting time indeed! Telephone jacks allowed us to have extension telephones all through the house – this to me and my pre-pubescent girlfriends, was living in the lap of luxury. To have a phone of one’s own in one’s bedroom, well, that was success, comfort, and the envy of the girlfriends.
I now feel more confused than ever. Do I crave the simplicity of a circa 1974 baby blue Contempra push-button wall phone with no bells or whistles, and furthermore, can I face the final frontier without call display, call waiting, call forwarding, texting, and Facebook? One thing is for certain, I would not miss the cellphone bills that at times resemble a mortgage payment, but I would miss being a click away from old school friends and family far away.
It is a strange world indeed that we have created. I would love to share my thoughts with Mom and Pop but it appears they once again did not hang up that rotary dial phone properly and I’ve been getting a busy signal for an hour and a half. Guess I’ll try again tomorrow… In the meantime, I’m off to Facebook to stay connected with good old friends.