Berger’s Burg: E-mail and telephone pull in opposite ways

By Alex Berger

I was told by you-know-whom to start off this column with a joke, so here goes: To err is human — to really screw up you need a computer. (That is Alex's joke).To relate my tale of woe, I must explain that I am a victim of the technological revolution. Ten years ago, we (Alex and I) bought our first computer. I gleefully learned to e-mail, chat online and research just about everything and anything on this new-fangled machine. I was very content with my new toy. I spent so much time on it that I neglected my other essential life activities. After a full day of work and completing essential household chores, I would lock myself in the den and dot-com for hours.This electronic box introduced me to the new world of e-mail, information, blogging and games. But it also became the bane of my existence. When it shut down (and it did quite frequently), it turned me from a sweet, sensitive flower to a scraggy thorn bush. I didn't know whether to repair it or simply throw it out the window. My sons Jon and Vance, computer mavens both, kept telling me to work it out. Huh? When my car gives me trouble, I drive it to my mechanic and he fixes it promptly. But you can't do that with a computer.Have you ever heard of the Geek Squad? They want $200 just for stepping through your door. That's more than it costs to repair a car, which is several times larger than the computer and can't transport me to work. Besides, I can drive the car to the garage, but I must bring the @#$% computer to the repair shop, which requires my unplugging it (and who knows what the cables are attached to?), or returning to my trusty typewriter. My sons are too busy with their own lives to help their frustrated mom. I must concede, however, that despite the problems, the computer is fun to be on, but when it goes down, it is a nightmare.Why is it that my children never seem to have trouble with their computers? Whenever I e-mail them, they respond within five minutes. Do they sit at their computers all day and dash to their computers during the night? How do they get back to me so quickly?Worst of all is their resentment at my not responding in kind. I use the computer only at night, when I can relax, knowing that my day's work is done. There is more to life than the computer. So, there are days and nights when I shop, talk to Mr. Berger's Burg or just gaze at the moon, and I skip the computer.When that happens, both sons telephone me to find out what is wrong. I apologize, and tell them the next time I fail to answer their e-mail immediately, I would certainly telephone. Wrong!They replied, in no uncertain terms, that that would be a serious breach of etiquette. No one uses the phone anymore unless it is an emergency. After all, they may be indisposed and not able to answer the telephone. Indisposed? That translates, in English, to their insistence that I sit at my computer keyboard, await their e-mail and answer them ASAP.I now have begun to e-mail everyone, and those friends and relatives, who are much closer to my age, are the ones incensed. Guess what? They disdain the newfangled world of the computer and prefer that I use the old-fashioned telephone and snail mail. They do not go on the computer regularly, and when trying to reach them, I should call. Uh oh. I am caught between the e-mail generation and the telephone generation.After much thought, I decided to side with my friends, and I still haven't heard the end of it. Despite my children's plea that I be a total computer person, I thought about the problem and have come up with a solution: To each, and for each, his own preference. I will e-mail AND phone, and mail at my discretion, and all my recipients can, if they wish, respond in kind.For me, the phone is not dead as yet, and I like hearing a loving human voice rather than seeing words on that cold, impersonal machine. Yes, I enjoy IMs, (instant messages) but isn't it warmer and more personal to hear kisses from the voice of a loved one rather than waiting for the typed response, even if it takes only a minute? Does anyone else agree with me?(However, now that all four grandchildren are computer literate, I will sit and wait for them to start communicating with me. Will it be by mail, e-mail or telephone? Time will tell.)

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