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Friday, 18 February 2011

The Reluctant Techno-Voyageuse

Written by  Susan B. Apel
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I’ve always hated technology, at least I used to. During my adult life, my adaptation to technological changes goes something like this: I hate it. I hate most of it. I hate it except for these particular instances. I think it has its good and bad points. I like it some of the time. I like it.  I really like it. You should like it. You must get one of these.

But the journey through these various stages is always a painful one. And as smart as I am about a number of things, I have no insight that allows me to apply my experiences with prior technologies to current ones. That is, as each new technology bobs to the surface, I hate it, and am convinced that I will hate it forever.

So I am surprised to be referring to myself as a techno-voyageuse, albeit an initially reluctant one, but in retrospect I think its apropos.

Here I was, on the verge of a year-long sabbatical which included something I have wanted for decades: a month, mostly on my own, in an apartment on the Left Bank of Paris. A time without work, without husband, without social contacts. A long-delayed odyssey to allow myself to contemplate the meaning of middle-age and survival of two bouts of breast cancer. To reconnect to the strength of flying solo, to reestablish myself as a citizen of the world.

But one needs a roof over one’s head. How to find an apartment–an entirely suitable apartment–in Paris? Technology number one: the Internet. Okay, this is a gimme. I use the Internet for professional and personal reasons all of the time. No problem. After a long learning curve about apartment rentals, not necessarily the technology, I pretty quickly secured a place to stay, with all of the accoutrements I deemed necessary to comfort and hence, to contemplation.

I began to think about being in Paris and communicating with my husband and friends at home.  I don’t have a laptop on principle – unlike others, I don’t want to carry work with me wherever I go. My cell phone was a vintage model I’d had for ten years; it made phone calls, domestically, and didn’t do anything else. I detested the so-called “smart phones” and their ilk, and looked with something akin to pity at those whose devices seemed never to leave their hands. Besides, I was convinced I could never learn to work one properly. (Part of hate is insecurity.)

Little by little, I began to see that I needed a new phone with international calling capabilities. I investigated various options, including renting one when I got to Europe. But since my ten-year old phone needed to be replaced anyway, I allowed myself an initial visit to a “phone store” and quickly left in dread after everyone working there seemed to be about 12 years old. More consideration needed, or maybe just a day when I had greater courage and patience.

One day I leapt. Husband in tow, I walked into a Blackberry store. The same 12-years olds, but this time I thought–who better to teach me to use one of these things? Most of my middle-aged friends were as baffled as I. So, I chose a phone, learned the rudiments of making calls, and subscribed to a plan that would allow me to receive e-mails and do some simple web-surfing. It was small, compact, wouldn’t add much to the luggage I was trying to minimize, and would keep me in touch. It had a camera, too, although I was sure I wouldn’t be using it.

At the same time, my generous and tech-savvy brother-in-law asked my husband to inquire if I would like a Kindle for Christmas. I said no. I am a book lover; I will not read a book from a screen. He gave me one anyway. I was polite, maybe even faked a little enthusiasm. “You will love it,” he assured me, “It’ll be great for your trip.” The Kindle sat in its box until one day, as a challenge to myself, I opened it and decided I could at least get it up and running, if only so I could hate it knowledgeably, and hate it I did.

But of course, circumstances change. I arrived in France and immediately received a message from the Blackberry folks saying “Welcome.” Then I took a walk to one of my favorite places: the Jardin du Luxembourg. I reclined into a chair, pulled out my Blackberry, and placed a call to my husband. When he answered, I said, I am sitting in the Jardin du Luxembourg looking at the central fountain. And in a tech-sort of way, he was with me to enjoy the scene.

IMG00014 20100902 1026Wait! Don’t I have a camera on this phone? I can send a photo! Or I think I can. I fiddled around, and soon was looking through a lens, snapping a picture, and sending it. So now my husband was looking at what I was looking at, saying, “It looks sunny there.” And it was.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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