Grabbing My Computer and Other Things I Didn’t Use To Do

Today I was on one of those “Hold for the next available representative” calls with a government agency.  My estimated wait time was 30-60 minutes, which was more than I want to sit and wait for most anything, but I put the phone on “speaker” and continued on about my day to dailies, listening for a break in the music.  When it came, I grabbed the phone and *fortunately* remembered to hit the speaker button and not the talk button–just as I had practiced.

Yeah.  I practiced it.  This was the real deal.  Nobody deserves to be disconnected after waiting that long.  NOBODY.

I was very lucky, and I got a friendly representative who was extremely helpful.  Maybe it’s because I introduced myself and said it was nice to meet her  (seriously, it was–did I mention the WAIT TIME–I was just thankful to have a person on the line at all) or maybe it was because it’s Friday or maybe she was just having a great day.  Or she was a genuinely kind person.

I’m inclined to think it might have been a little bit of all of that.

She was telling me about yet another form I needed to fill out and send back to them.  Well, great.  I was worried that I might not have the right form AND that I wouldn’t know what I was doing, so I asked her a favor.

“Ummm, Ms. B, do you mind if I look up that form and make sure I know what you’re talking about before I let you go?”

“Honey, you go right ahead.  Take your time.”  Bless her.  Okay, maybe not so much for the people still on hold, but I appreciated her for that.  And for calling me honey.  That eased all kinds of stress.

“Okay, thank you ma’am, let me grab my computer, and I’ll look it right up.”

And that’s when it hit me how much things have changed even in my lifetime.  The fact that I said “grab my computer” rather than “go to my computer”–the portability of internet access is amazing.

Amazing and challenging.

I was recently in conversation with folks who work with college students.  It’s a whole new ballgame now.  The students can “Facebook stalk” or check out other students on other social media way before they even set foot on campus.  First impressions are already made.

We wrote letters way back when I started college.  You know, “back in my day.”  In the snow.  In the shadow of the dinosaurs.

There’s the world of social media which can do so much good and so much harm–an extension of what our words can do all by themselves, amplified by the number of “friends” “listening.”  There are the laptops and tablets and smartphones and even watches for goodness’ sake that keep us accessible to information, entertainment, and each other way more than ever before.  In fact, the only reason some folks are ever out of “touch” is the WiFi is down.  Or they are in a poor service area.

Seems a shame, doesn’t it?

And yet, when we can send pictures of newborns and graduates and ballet dances and first bike rides along the way to loved ones who might not otherwise have seen them, it’s a win for the advancement we’ve seen in technology.  When a parent can check in with her college student without setting foot on campus or calling every single night, that’s a definite win.  When a company can interview someone who is perfect for the position but would need to relocate, technology is the reason why.  And when a family can laugh and talk and visit with that someone they love who is thousands of miles away, that is a huge win.

Tonight I’m thankful for kind souls who work in jobs where they never see the person they are helping and still treat them like people–with compassion and respect.  I’m thankful for the advancements in technology that allow folks to stay connected–seeing smiles, sharing moments, laughter, and tears.  Most of all, I give thanks that I can still hear my Daddy’s words on a regular basis in my head and heart.  Words that keep me in check.  “Make it work for you, you don’t work for it.” He was talking about Facebook specifically, but I’m pretty sure he’d agree it applies to all of technology in general.

May we all continue to strive for that balance.

Love to all.

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Old School Paper Writing and Feeling Old

Today’s “story from a ways back” is brought to you by 80’s radio.  The best place to find all your high school and college memories.

Yesterday as I was shuttling my little people hither and yon, the song “Like a Prayer” by Madonna came on the radio.  It immediately took me back to college.   And then to an afternoon a few months ago.

The song came on the radio that day, and I looked over at Aub, who was riding shotgun.

“That song goes back to my junior year, I think.”

She nodded and kept looking at her phone. “I wrote a paper about that song,” I told her, glancing over to gauge her response.

“Really?” she asked.

“Yeah, it was for a Religion class with Dr. Ledbetter.”

“Huh,” she replied, finally looking up.  “About the song?”

“Well, about the song and the video combined, I guess,” I told her.  “It took me over a week to write it.”

That got her attention.

“What?  Why?”

“I had to go over to the Rec Room every day around six to catch the video on the top video countdown on MTV on the big screen TV in there.  I had to hurry over to eat supper and then get down there before it started, because you never knew if that video was going to be at the beginning or closer to the end.  I’d sit and watch and take notes.  I went back several nights in a row before I had what I needed to write it.”

Ahem.  I might as well have been speaking Greek.

“You had to do what?  Wait now, you…..well, I mean, whaaa–I’m confused.”

Well of course you are, baby girl.

Kids these days.

If I were to write the same paper today–it was about the spirituality in the song and video, as best as I can remember–I could pop it out in just a couple of hours or so.  Suffice to say, it wouldn’t have been one of those all-nighters that I needed to keep doughnuts around to reward myself for every hour or so that I stayed awake writing.  (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) First of all, this was back when MTV actually showed Music Videos.  (Not that I’m aware of what they show now, but I’ve heard things.)  It was back before there was free cable in the dorms, where I could have watched it in the comfort of my room.  Back before the invention of the DVR, so I could have recorded it to watch at any time and not had to rush through my suppers all week long.  Wait, with DVR, I could have replayed the parts I needed clarity on over.  And over.  And over.  Until I had everything I needed.

But wait, there’s more.

This was before the advent of YouTube.

Whoa.

I know.

This was before we could pull up every possible music video with the exception of those by the artist Mr. Garth Brooks by going to a website on the world wide web and typing a few key words. Yes, there once was such a time, my friends. I had a computer while I was in college, thanks to my Daddy’s guidance and a gift from my Granny.  It served me very well.  But internet? Puh-lease.  I was lucky it wasn’t one of those wall-to-wall units.  It had a dot-matrix printer with the paper that fed through with tear-off holes on the sides, for goodness’ sake. As I listened to the song yesterday and caught my littles’ glancing with more than a little curiosity at their Mama belting out a song that wasn’t from the “Frozen” soundtrack or sung by anyone previously or currently known as a Disney Channel star, I thought about that paper, and what it would be like to write it now. I could totally do it in one sitting.  On a laptop.

Pull up video on YouTube.  Check.

Watch a couple of times, making notes.  Leave the tab up for quick reference.

Look up on Bible Gateway or another scripture website the key words from the notes I took to find Bible passages that will help me connect the meaning behind the song and video with Scripture.   (I think I used a Bible with a concordance the first time around.  It was neither quick nor efficient.)

Take notes from the Bible passages.

Click open the YouTube tab.  Watch the video one more time.

*Pause to check Facebook notification and comment on the cute pictures my roommate just posted.  Text my friend back who asked if I was about to head over for supper in the dining hall.*

Sort my thoughts, make some semblance of an outline.

Open up Word or a document file.  While I wait, message my classmate that I’m almost done with this paper.  Score!

Begin typing.  (MOST useful class I took in high school.  Hands down.  Thank you, Mrs. Pearson.)

Have the computer proofread for me.  (My old computer could sort of do that–it thought “toady” was an acceptable word so that didn’t go so well a time or two.)

Save it periodically as I type, as I probably would have learned my lesson before then.   I hope.

Save the final copy.

Open up my email account.

Compose an e-mail to Dr. Ledbetter.  Attach my paper to send.  Press SEND.

Done.

Seriously?

I don’t think my girl and her crew get how easy things are today.  Almost all knowledge and entertainment (with the exception of Mr. Garth Brooks’ videos–this troubles me greatly, y’all) are literally at their fingertips.  Just a few minutes ago, I opened up a tab and looked up “advent” to make sure I was using it correctly. By moving nothing more than my fingers.

Sigh.

I know I sound old, but when I think about how different such a simple thing as writing a research paper is today it blows me away.  My next child in line to go to college will be there in nine years.  What?  I wonder how much more advanced things will be.

Maybe the computer will write their papers for them.

Y’all. I’m old.

And on that note, I’m going to bed.