Our eldest granddaughter, home from college for a few days, stopped by the house, took a chair across from me at the kitchen table, looked me in the eye and said: “Granddad, it’s time.”
“Tell him again,” urged her grandmother, doing something at the stove.
Thus encouraged, or egged on, the younger woman said it again, a little more firmly: “It’s time.”
So: two of the three most important women in my life had me cornered, coerced (the third, the younger grand, was there in spirit, having conveyed the identical message numerous times).
It was new smartphone time.
They had been laughing at me, these three women, for — I am serious — years. About three years, I’d guess. They weren’t alone. Friends, the occasional Roman, countrymen, colleagues and assorted other cyber-cognoscenti, not to mention the odd passerby: they heaped it on, my resolve stiffened by their ridicule. Oh, they would tell you they weren’t laughing at me, Heavens no, but at my smartphone; my first, maybe second such instrument, I can’t recall. But in our time a man and his smartphone, don’t you see, are one and the same, indistinguishable. We are, it would seem, not so much what we download or who we call or who we text as what we use to download, call and text. By that standard I was over the hill, one foot in the nursing home. Passe. As antique as the implement clipped to my belt.
In fact Old Betsy, shall I call her, was rather outdated. While her voice and e-mail and text sys-tems worked perfectly, she no longer supported, as I understand the term, several of the apps, as I understand the term, that I check many times daily while at my desktop computer: newspa-per and wire service websites, especially, and some data transmission mechanisms were una-vailable as well. (Too, electronic poker, of the sort Sen. John McCain was caught playing on the floor, his method, as mine, of staying awake, or sane, during especially pointless legislative de-liberations.)
Of greater concern to my three ladies, however, was Betsy’s inability to capture their Tweets. When I protested that the one thing of which this nation had had enough was Tweets, they ob-served that I did hot have to Tweet anyone, or subscribe to their Twitter account.
“I’ll drive,” granddaughter said. I thought that a little snotty. I don’t use a cane. “Just get in the car, Granddad.” Since I don’t drool, I thought that even snottier.
I envisioned the reception awaiting me at the phone store.
“They’re going to laugh at me,” I told granddaughter. “No, they won’t,” she promised.
We were greeted at the door by welcome-and-how-can-we-help-you?
Before I, the dotard, could answer, “My granddad needs a new smartphone,” replied my care-giver, the little snot.
I pulled Old Betsy from her scabbard and offered her to the saleslady who, as I had been as-sured, did not laugh. She chuckled. “Oh, my,” she added. Oh, my, we were overdue for an up-grade.
A dozen smartphones of varying size, capability, power and price awaited my selection. On an-other berm — sadly neglected, lonely and abandoned, evoking puppies and kittens in an SPCA commercial — rested a like number of simple cellphones, little “flips” that suggested simpler times. I glanced longingly at them, but granddaughter took my elbow, nudging me back to the 21st Century.
Saleslady, presumably on commission, predictably extolled the benefits of the newest generation of smartphones, the sales tax on which exceeded Betsy’s purchase price those years ago. But then Betsy didn’t walk, talk, light your cigar and change your car’s oil. Granddaughter, even if she seemed uncertain that I could walk or talk unassisted, knew that I neither smoke cigars nor change my oil myself. And, with a fair knowledge of my personal preferences and professional requirements, she wordlessly tapped the screen of a model priced somewhat to the south of deluxe. A couple or three “generations” behind the Leading Edge.
Saleslady, recognizing a smaller commission, smiled. Tightly. Her sense of humor returned when, with a coworker, she began transferring the data from Betsy to the new phone, at a station across the room. They kept glancing at me, then Betsy, back and forth. Two relics.
“They’re laughing at me,” I told granddaughter.
“Nah. They’re just — smirking,” she responded, patting my hand.
Then we were back at the house, at the kitchen table, Granddaughter’s fingers flying across Betsy II’s screen. Deleting apps: “You don’t need this one. Or this one. Or that one…”
Since I didn’t know what I didn’t need, fine. And it was time.