As I get older I am often amazed at how my inner "me" has remained constant. I feel pretty much the same inside, and while the outside has undergone (what some would say are drastic) changes, rarely can anyone guess my age (thanks mom and dad) and the guy peering back at me from the mirror (aside from a pesky gray beard that irritates me to no end - makes my face look dirty) is pretty much the same as he ever was, dreadlocks notwithstanding. So my steady march through time is most often brought home to me in a couple of ways. Firstly, I can be blown away by the ages of those around me. My protracted employment at this fine concern has brought me into contact with many people, and usually coworkers easily slip into a "peer" slot - we all work together to produce the best product we can and there are few things that create camaraderie more than a common goal. Quite frequently, I am somewhat embarrassed to discover in some roundabout way that some of my current coworkers are not only young enough to be my children, but to my horror some are now eligible for grandchildren status. It seems to me that the passage of time is most evident in how everyone else gets older. My daughter went from a baby to a mature woman and mother in what seems to have been mere months, and I've seen more than a few of the neighborhood kids grow to adulthood in what in retrospect appeared weirdly similar to one of those time lapse photo sequences that records the maturation of a seed to a flowering plant. I can finally understand why my elders always exclaimed "My you've grown" when I was a kid - at the time I remember being flippantly nonplussed thinking "What'd you expect?!" Sometimes I feel as though I have been stuck in time - I can relate to Washington Irving's most notable protagonist; say hello to Rip Van William.
The second way that I am reminded of how old I actually am is the technological advances that I have witnessed in my lifetime. Cars that talk to you, automated bank tellers, doors that open on their own and of course personal computers are all marvels of our age. I am reminded of how geezers used to talk about how things were "back in the day", when horse and buggy were the predominant means of travel or when a loaf of bread cost a nickel. My first job was pumping gas at my cousin's service station at the age of 15 and I distinctly remember being astonished that an 18-wheeler required a whopping twenty-three dollars to fill two tanks! Sci-fi addict that I am, most of these advances were not unexpected, but the way in which they have become so commonplace and unremarkable to so many is the surprise. I find myself in the role of "geezer" attempting to explain to whippersnappers how things were in the "Dark Ages" before everything had a remote control (even my laptop computer). When the miraculous becomes the mundane before your very eyes, you know the passage of time can be as swift as the shelf life of a Pamela Anderson marriage. The most significant change in how things are done in my lifetime is most apparent in how we communicate. No one writes letters anymore (the last one I got was almost a decade ago from a former neighbor who is now a ward of the state - euphemism) in favor of e-mail. And of course the 500- pound gorilla of technology/communication is the ubiquitous cell phone. I have to admit that I find them slightly annoying. Being an iconoclast rarely involves availability, even before "cellies" I found telephones to be somewhat intrusive and answered them when I chose to depending on my mood or disposition. When I finally elected to add an answering machine, my personalized greeting spoke of being "either unable or disinclined to answer your call" to the ire of more than a few callers to my home. When the first cumbersome cell phones (the size of a small suitcase) hit the scene I couldn't understand why everyone thought the ability to be reached anywhere, anytime was a good thing. The possibility of having whatever I chose to lose myself in interrupted whenever someone else had a notion was far from attractive; in fact it was downright odious. I was adamant in my assertion that a cell phone was a somewhat dubious luxury and far from a necessity, but about ten years ago phone booths started disappearing at an alarming rate and I grudgingly came around to the position shared by most of the citizens of this country under the age of 40 - you gotta have a cell phone in case of an emergency.
My submission was gradual, I went with a pre-paid generic phone about six years ago, only exchanging it for a monthly plan when I wearied of making the trek to the phone store to purchase additional minutes about two years ago. Even then I chose the basic phone that came with the plan, as I saw no need for surfing the web or taking pictures with my phone - that's what my high-end digital camera and laptop were for, right? All was well until I saw the first Motorola Razr. Aesthetics rule my life (sometimes to my chagrin) and this was about as appealing to my sensibilities as the first Jaguar XKE I ever saw. Sleek and stylish, I was also taken by the extremely low profile of it. Compared to this Millennium Falcon of a handset, my free generic Samsung was about as sexy and hip as a Ford Pacer. When it was time to renew my plan I decided to go Star Trek and spring for this modern day communicator, with its web browsing capabilities and digital camera (though I have yet to take a picture with it). Additionally I thought I'd take the quantum leap of the anytime, anywhere plan for a flat monthly rate with the notion of disconnecting my home land line. Many of the generation Xers I know embrace the lack of the land line as a logical progression - no problemo, they blithely informed me, who needs a land line when you're always connected like Spock?
That's easier said than done. This is the part when my hidden Luddite tendencies proved stronger to kick than an addiction to nicotine. Face it, we baby boomers grew up in an era when phones were bolted to the wall in the kitchen and portable meant an eighteen foot cord. My parents have the same phone number they had when I was born, back when the exchange prefix was a name as in Amherst -56789! Admittedly, I got a bit irritated when automobile power windows became standard - I saw no need to get rid of the window crank (was it really that hard turn the handle? ), but I did not see myself as someone mired in the past, unable to embrace technology for a stubborn adherence to antiquated methodology. After all, I am a digital artist and see no need to open a can of paint when my computer and plotter serve my purposes just nicely, thank-you. Now, my home number is not as old as my parents, but it has been mine for nearly 25 years and I find myself reluctant to disconnect it. It is totally useless, no one calls me on it (much) but telemarketers or pollsters, and yet every day for the last three weeks I leave home with the idea of calling my home provider and having them pull the plug, and every day I go home thinking - tomorrow. Maybe today as I hitch up the old horse and buggy to leave work I can pull out my sleek and sexy Razr and make that call (or maybe not).