Thursday, June 13, 2013


The cell phone in my hand grew dank with hand sweat as I talked to Staff Sergeant Aric Zern who was calling from somewhere, just outside of Kirkuk, Iraq.

 “. . . so then Conner-Boy asked Zoe, ‘Why is the sky blue?' and then Zoe Baye said, ‘Because, Conner, Heavenly Father knows that blue is your favorite color and he made the whole sky just for you.’"

And then I said . . . oh, wait before that they did the funniest thing . . . ”

Rattling on, I talked happy talk to absolutely no one for approximately three additional minutes. I did not pause, breathe, or hesitate. I kept right on talking and talking and talking until the black hole of silence on the other end of the line tipped me off—my signal had been dropped from the dark side of some nifty space probe or satellite saucer or something else spacey.
“Aric, can you hear me?” I yelled into the phone.  “Come in, anyone. Anyone—Roger, Roger.”

The phone beeped cheerfully with an incoming call from a war zone in Iraq.

It was Aric, laughing. “I always know you’re still talking to absolutely no one when we get cut off, and then I call back, and it’s still busy.”

These are the moments which make me long for the days of tin cans, string, and rotary dials. I understood string. I understood cans. I understood numbers in a circle. Tin cans circling the earth, which get a big kick out of hearing me talk to myself, I don’t get.

On the subject of technology, did you know that when you submit a blog entry online, people can leave comments at the end of your submission? There’s these conveniently placed boxes where people can respond to what you’ve written; I had no idea. I just figured it out.  It’s exciting to write words and then have people write words about your words. The possibilities remain endless, as endless as the far reaches of the space circling around our fair planet where large metal cans are waiting to drop your calls or record your every thinking moment.

However, I continue to feel a deep shame and unremitting dopiness over my inability to play a movie on the X-box or cheat in school on my cell phone.

In response to my complaining loudly about my endless struggles with the mysteries of the foreign language known as algebra and a looming math test, a young fellow classmate (we’ll call him Nimrod) whipped a cell phone from his pants pocket.

Nimrod, displaying the lighted panel of his excellent mobile phone said, “I always cheat. It’s easy.” 

He began to punch a series of numbers resembling a sequence from the Dresden Mayan Codex. I squinted, trying to follow his dancing fingers.

He continued to text message mysterious numbers and letters. The phone beeped and then chirped. He waved it overhead.

“Just keep your phone in your sock during the test. See?!”

I smiled benignly and patted his boney shoulder. 

“Nimrod, sweetheart, first of all, you’re assuming I know how to text message, and second of all, you probably don’t realize arthritis makes it difficult for me to do anything with a phone while it’s in my sock.”

He smiled sadly, his disappointment visible.

I added, “Besides the fact, I wouldn’t feel comfortable cheating and thereby selling my soul for a lousy grade in a lousy math class.” 

I could tell that in Nimrod’s worldview, I had ceased to exist as a sentient being.

It’s hard not to feel that the world has passed me by when my fifteen-month old grandson can operate the DVD player better than I can, and crib notes are now downloaded to a student’s sock via a satellite orbiting somewhere over Kirkuk, Iraq. 

I weep with shame. Oh, and don’t tell anyone, but I still use stamps and send real letters—in envelopes, through the mail, via the United States Post Office, after I lick the glue on the flaps, with my tongue.

Linda (Happy Talker) Zern 

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