Lifetimes of Learning, and Then *Poof*

Well, this may be a little morbid.  Or a lot.  Please accept my apologies in advance for writing about our inevitable demise.

At the post office yesterday, I noticed a woman maybe fifteen or twenty years older than I preparing an express mail cardboard envelope.  She had a label, on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper that looked to have been printed from her computer.  It appeared that she was returning something to some on-line retailer.  As my imagination went a little wild considering what she was sending back in that little envelope, I noticed her carefully measuring and folding, with great precision and the back of her thumbnail, the paper label so that it fit the envelope, just so.  She had a roll of packing tape neatly next to her.

I moved past her in line, got the package I was waiting for, and left.  I didn’t have a chance to see her tape the label onto the envelope and send it on its way, but the entire rest of my errand running (and apparently still this afternoon, as I write this), I thought about everything we learn throughout our lives and how one day, poof, all that learning and ability will be gone from this earth.  Somewhere during her life, that woman had mastered the skills necessary to measure and fold that paper and attach it and get the parcel wherever it needed to get to.

I know that seems like a small thing, but think about it in the context of all the other things we do in our lives.  Over our lifetime, we learn to do great things and small things; to comfort a crying baby; to catch a ball; to swim; to write technical papers; to sell software; to banter, sing and sharpen and knife. And for all of that to disappear when we take our last breath, well, I don’t know what to think.  I’m not saddened, as I know that part of living is doing, learning and experiencing.  I think I feel a little sense of responsibility to the people who may live longer than I.  You should know what I know, feel what I feel …. But then again, why?  They will have their own knowings, their own feelings.

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Generations from now, no one will think twice about my lifetime of learning and my little accomplishments.  I will be remembered, perhaps, with a headstone that lists born-on and died-on dates.  It won’t say, “Sarah knew how to draft a damn good disclosure document.” It won’t explain what it takes to learn, at 46 years, how to stay up on a slalom water ski.  There will be no mention or care that I had a weird, sick sense of humor,  or these bizarre thoughts on living and not living while standing in line at the post office.

 

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When Did Phones Cross the Line from Useful to Overwhelming?

When watching ski races, conversations with other racer parents, known or unknown, often go in fits and starts.  We are all checking the start lists, refreshing Live-Timing on our phones for the last finish time, making sure we haven’t lost a glove, shivering and saying hello to people walking by.  At Winter Park this weekend, another racer parent sat hunched over his phone, grumbling about the lack of internet service.  “I’ve had good coverage here all season,” he says to me or to no one in particular.  “I guess the crowds are eating up all the bandwidth.”

I looked over at the excessively long lift line of President’s Day weekend skiers and shrugged.  He was probably right.  That or the clouds were in the way.  He was trying to get the results of the first run of the men’s World Championship slalom race.  He finally got some coverage and expressed frustration that the page, slow loading as it was, didn’t have what he was looking for.  “I’m sort of over my phone,” I said.  A wry smile crossed his lips.  “Yeah.  It’s almost too much to keep up with.  And it’s so annoying when I can’t get a signal.  When it works, there is always something to check on or download or whatever.  I get a little overwhelmed with it sometimes.”

And there it is.  Maybe it’s generational and just us middle-agers feel this way.  I mean, most people who are a decade or two older never really plugged into the constant-on of technology.  I think it’s still the norm for my mom to leave her (non-smart) cell phone off unless she is going to make a call.  I’m not sure she’s ever sent a text.  Dad doesn’t have a cell phone.  But it’s all good for them.  They use what they want how they want and who gives a crap if they never learned how to turn on a cell phone.  The younger generations, X, Y, millenials, whatever-they-are-called-past-that, they grew up with this constant information availability.  The expectation to be checking in all the time is just normal rather than overwhelming.

I’m also over the tangled or too-short power cords, ear buds that go missing, quickly depleting battery, and the messages from AT&T that my data usage is about to exceed the plan that I was assured would be more than sufficient for our family of three.  Don’t even get me started on trying to figure out what the best “deals” are, or that my phone, which is less than two years old, is already decrepit in its technology, or that the power cord from my even older iPad no longer works to charge my iPhone.

I don’t have the job of a senior manager any more.  I’m not expected (not that this should be the expectation for our professionals, even though it is) to check email or voice mail or whatever 24×7.  But I still do.  It’s a weird obsession that has me a little concerned, frankly.

There are those who take technology vacations.  They turn off their phone and unplug their computer for a day, a week or a month, and “find themselves” again.  They become the free, unconnected people we were born to be.  I haven’t been able to do this.  I think I have some sort of subconscious fear that when I find myself, I will be irrelevant and boring.  Not that anyone will notice; they are all too busy checking their phones.

Whatever.  I’m certainly not alone, as evidenced by Mr. Grumbly Pants next to me on Sunday.  Maybe I’ll create an I’m Over My Phone support group app.  Download and it’ll drain your battery like nobody’s business and message you several times a day to remind you that your obnoxious phone is taking over your life.

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