My Favorite Medium

So this is where the love is

March 3, 2010

The guy driving the airport shuttle van couldn’t get over it. I had arrived at the Philadelphia airport and was to be driven to a speaking engagement at a library conference in New Jersey. I had called the driver from home before I left to give him the details of my flight arrival. Nonchalantly, he said, "Just call me on your cell phone when you get in." When I told him that I didn’t have a cell phone, I thought the line had gone dead. After a long pause, he said "Okay, I’ll meet you at baggage claim . . . I guess."

The 45-minute ride from the airport amounted to a cross examination. Even though my flight was on time and we connected flawlessly, the driver was clearly upset that I did not own a cell phone. He kept asking why, and I kept saying that I didn’t want to be leashed. "It’s all about my sense of personal freedom," I finally said and then feigned falling asleep.

What I was too embarrassed to tell him, however, was that cell phones make me nervous—their random ringing, constant buzzing, and multiplicity of functions. It’s all so frenetic and complicated. If a cell phone did one thing it wouldn’t be so bad, but I’m mechanically incompetent and behaviorally incapable of multitasking, and needing reading glasses doesn’t help. Why can’t a phone just be a phone? Why does it also have to be a camera, a projector, a computer, a radio, a television, a calculator, a tape player, and a video game?

Things that are too complicated lower my self esteem . . . like today’s radios. Whatever happened to the big round dial that you turned to switch channels? Now there are buttons with arrows and numbers and it’s just too complicated. And how about the ATM? My big fear is that pushing the wrong button will wipe out your retirement nest egg. As for video games: When your 4-year-old grandson prefers to play against his 2-year-old sister because she’s better than Grandpa, where do you turn for your sense of self worth?

If you’re me, oddly enough, you turn to blogging. How could such an ugly word deliver such a transcendent experience? I write, readers comment, and I write some more. But here’s the fun: There’s this click graph that the blogging company gives me. I can see it go up and down. It goes up during the day and down at night; up on the weekdays and down on the weekends.

How ironic that through the ethereal vapor of the internet, my blog gives me something solid and real—a whole crowd of blogging buddies. A thousand clicks in one day—it’s incredible. The largest audience I ever presented to was maybe 800 people at a Texas Library Association Conference.

As I watch the clicks register, I try to picture each reader. A perky children’s librarian with puppets sticking out of her pockets in Iowa. A grumpy cataloger with a heart of gold in Vermont. An inquisitive reference librarian with a flamboyant necktie in Kansas.

I’m not lonely any more. My audience is real.

Now it’s your turn. Visit me at Will Unwound.

Let’s see. You’re an intellectually gifted academic librarian who reads Proust for fun.