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Falling behind the cyber times

February 9, 2015  By Ian Robinson

I’ve always landed on the practical, rather than frivolous, side of things.

Now, I make no claim to being a serious man—just recently I played a 25-minute game of peekabo, hiding behind a napkin with a very cheerful two-year-old sitting across the room in a crowded restaurant.

But I’m still the guy carries an iPhone so he can make phone calls, not so he can play Angry Birds.

I’m interactive…it’s only I like to interact with something with a pulse and a smile.


I do appreciate constant internet access, though.

When I was coming up, I saw a bunch of bar fights that began over disagreements concerning sports statistics.


Today, a little cyber-mosey over to Google settles it and I no longer find myself having to jump away from the bar and the blood spatter while morons practice non-consensual, amateur dentistry with their fists.

Now all the bar fights I see start over something sensible.


In terms of tech, though, I’m doing pretty good for a man of my years.

Not like my wife and her sister.

You ever see the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey? (It’s a SF flick made back in the days that 2001 was the distant future instead of the distant past.)

It opens with this trippy scene of some kind of high-tech black monolith on Earth and there’s a bunch of monkeys gathered around it hooting and looking confused.

Smart phones are the monolith.

My wife and my sister?

Well. You decide.

True story: I get a phone call at home…on a landline…from my sister-in-law.

She was informing me that she had received an e-mail from her sister.

My wife.

There was a pause. On my side.

I guess it went on a long time, because she said, “Are you still there?”


“Well, will you tell her?”

“Tell her what?”

“That I got her e-mail?”

“Why would I do that?”

“So she’ll know.”

“She knows.”

“How could she know that?”

“Cause if your email had not been received, it would have bounced back to her browser with a message that it was undeliverable.”

“But would it tell her that I read it?”


“So tell her.”

“You tell her.”


I took a deep sigh. Counted to 10. Extended the count to 15.

I’ve been married long enough I know you do not endear yourself to your wife by screaming vile and disgusting obscenities at your sister-in-law, questioning her intelligence, pedigree and very humanity.

But it had not seemed to occur to my sister-in-law, on any level, that telephoning negated the need for e-mail.

Or that e-mailing negated the need for a phone call.

And it’s not like she spent her entire adult life, say, catering to the needs of the elderly in a senior citizens home or living with the Amish.

She was a high school teacher…which means she was exposed to cutting-edge tech every working day because she was confiscating it from her students so she could keep their attention long enough to teach them how to blow into a tuba.

Not to mention the fact that as an older school teacher she was sharing a staff room with 23-year-old teachers who also had iPhones and Nokia Luminas permastuck to the palms of their hands.

“Are you still there?”

“Yes,” I said. “I am still here. You received her e-mail, correct?”


“You read it on your home computer?”


“Are you home?”


I had to count to 30 this time.

“Why don’t you go to your computer and reply to her e-mail. There’s a little icon you click on. It’s probably labelled, ‘Reply.’ You could write: ‘Just read your e-mail.’ And if you had thoughts concerning the e-mail, you could then relay them to her.”

“But how would I know she got my e-mail?”

Another 10 count.

“Because if it didn’t go through, you’d get a message in your e-mail inbox informing you your email wasn’t delivered.”

“Look,” she said, “it’s just easier if you phone her and tell her I called.”

“Why don’t you phone her and cut e-mail out of the process entirely.”

“I don’t want to bother her when she’s at work.”

I didn’t even hang up. I put the phone down on the arm of my chair. I walked out the back door.

When the police turned up half an hour later to investigate reports of a man screaming obscenities at the sky in a back yard, I feigned innocence.

“Sorry officers. I was listening to my iPod with my earphones on. Black Sabbath. I wouldn’t have heard anything even if a plane had crashed in front of my house.”

I didn’t bother to tell my wife her sister called.

Let them figure it out.​

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