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Commentary: The Roots of Technology

Madisonville author Patricia Wiles returns as a WKMS commentator after a hiatus of many years. She reflects on "The Roots of Technology" and how, while 'graying gracefully' she and her husband have bonded over their iPhones.

The Roots of Technology

by Patricia Wiles 

A lot can change in ten years. I used to swear I’d never color my hair. I would gray gracefully, I used to say. I would be unashamed for the world to see every color-drained strand. A headful of them would be my reward for successfully raising three children and a cat to maturity.

Fast forward a decade ... The kids are all married, my cat is old enough to qualify for AARP, and my hair stylist knows me so well she could be on my “please call in case of emergency” list. Recently I had an appointment with Amber for color and highlights. Right before I arrived my husband sent a text: “Tell her to get all the gray out.” I wasn’t offended. It was only a joke, a little something from my better half to make me LOL because he’s graying gracefully. His hair is so soft and silvery that our 4-year-old granddaughter runs her fingers through it and says it’s “ripe.”

While his hair may be maturing, I can’t say the same for his sense of humor which - - thanks to Steve Jobs – I’m treated to several times a day via his iPhone. I remember our first foray into the world of smartphones. “I won’t text a lot,” said he. “I don’t have that much to say.” Then The Man of Few Words discovered emoticons, which he uses today like some people use the alphabet. Thank goodness for unlimited text plans! On the bright side, we probably communicate more now that we ever have in nearly 34 years of marriage because texting, like Fleetwood Mac says, makes lovin’ fun. Before I leave work in the afternoons, he texts his order for dinner so when I go through the drive thru he gets exactly what he wants.

And recently, when I had a severe bout of laryngitis and was under doctor’s orders not to talk for three days, did my honey celebrate? No! He sat at his end of the couch and I sat at mine, and I’d text him if I needed something, and he’d text back, “OK,” followed by one or all of the following emoticons: Smiley. Wink. Heart. Boy and Girl Kissing. Thumbs up. Hamburger. Fries. Airplane.

Imagine how different this moment between Bogie and Bacall would have been with an iPhone: “You know how to whistle, don’cha Steve? You just go to the App store, search for a whistle app, enter your Apple ID – make sure it’s linked to your credit card – and download.”

Speaking of Bogie and Bacall, ten years ago when you put on your jammies and settled in to watch a movie, you really watched the movie. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to watch a movie without someone nearby queuing up the International Movie Database and reading aloud during the important scenes, in order, the following information: plot, summary, critic’s reviews, quotes, trivia, history of the top-billed cast including every film, TV show, commercial, cameo appearance, YouTube video, and school play performance.

The best thing about our smartphones and improved Internet technology is the ability to video call using FaceTime or Skype. Our children have their own families now and live in far-away places that require us to save frequent flyer miles. We can’t be in the same room with our grandchildren, but Skype gets us through until the next sale on Southwest -- or when a little red-headed girl kisses the computer screen and says, “I love you, Granddad,” and ten minutes later you’re booking a flight out west because that little girl’s kiss is worth a last-minute, high-price ticket and the love of a grandchild is the purest thing there is, next to hair that’s naturally ripe.

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