One particular sunrise, my husband dashed outside to retrieve our newspaper. But it wasn’t there.
Imagine the teamwork involved in getting a plastic-wrapped bundle of local and worldwide news to individual households every single day. A paper on the driveway is a daily miracle, really, yet not finding one there is a rare occurrence. No-shows or late deliveries are so infrequent, we don’t know how to react.
This is why, when my husband returned indoors empty-handed, he went straight to a desk drawer. He selected one of our 365 phone books, which also happen to land on our driveway daily. He looked up The Star’s number, and then called customer service from our home phone.
I watched him and grinned.
It was an incredible trifecta of analog behavior. I said, “Do you realize what you just did? You went outside to get the PHYSICAL paper. You looked up the customer service number in the three-dimensional WHITE PAGES. Then you called The Star on our LANDLINE phone!”
He grinned back at me. It was a stubborn ghost of a reflex. A subconscious nod to 1990s problem-solving.
Otherwise, my husband appreciates and uses Millennium-generation-approved technology. At work, a George Jetson tablet is practically welded to his hand. Everywhere else, the man’s zippy cell phone is at his fingertips. He can tap an app so fast he knows baseball scores the minute the bat cracks at Kauffman Stadium. Had he been more awake that one paperless morning, he would have pushed a single button and asked Siri to call The Star’s customer service.
We both adore most technologies, but there’s no way we’re giving up the analog stuff. We firmly believe physical things are apps, too.
The above-mentioned newspaper dependence is a fine example. A tactile format offers a much different information-gathering experience than digitally cherry-picking headlines from a list on a glowing screen. That’s why we still subscribe. It’s the right combination of depth and a kind of forced serendipity. With every crinkling page turn, we stumble upon helpful/informative/thorough stories and announcements we would never tap on our screens. Pixels bury things.
By dipping into the analog news, we’ve caught ourselves attending events across the city we would not have noticed on Kardashian-marinated websites or cellphones apps. We discover unexpected information that rarely floats our way electronically. Reading the paper is like actually walking through the woods. Finding news solely on a screen is like YouTube-ing “how to walk through the woods,” but then getting distracted by TMZ halfway through.
So we embrace both the digital and analog life. Our insistence on the latter is a source of amusement for our kids. I’ve actually said to them, before car trips, “Here, take this Rand McNally road atlas with you.”
Womp womp wommmmpp.
But even our college-age sons can appreciate a paper versus digital battle. Our youngest recently struggled over the idea of traveling with a heavy, actual textbook for an intense study abroad summer course. His other option was to download the entire thing on a sleek tablet. He admitted to liking the physicality of textbooks and appreciating how his spatial memory kicks in when he studies from real pages. The clunky book is in his suitcase.
I quizzed our other son and his girlfriend, both rising juniors. They’re as techie as you can get. They, too, prefer 3-D textbooks. Imagine! Young people! Rejecting something they could download! Maybe this is why trendsetting hipsters are buying up vinyl records and turntables. There’s something about the physical object and the brain.
It would be scary if everything we depended on for information and entertainment bounced off satellites and floated in clouds-that-aren’t-really-clouds. Man does not live on vapor alone.
Personally, I don’t want the day to ever come when the paper’s not on the driveway. The daily phone book? That’s another story.
Freelancer Denise Snodell writes twice monthly.