THE LONG VIEW: Communication as easy as 1-2-3… and counting

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Pat Grimes New pic.jpg

Gather round, kiddies, and Old Man Grimes will tell about the primitive ways of the old days. There was a time, you see, when people had few options for being in contact. Imagine, if you can, a world with no Internet. Hard to believe, but we somehow managed to stay in touch.

Time was, you had three choices for communication:  you could talk on the phone, send a letter through the mail, or speak in person, face-to-face. Nowadays, you can “reach out and touch someone” in myriad ways, all doable with that slim computer slab you hold in your hand.

Gather round, kiddies, and Old Man Grimes will tell about the primitive ways of the old days. There was a time, you see, when people had few options for being in contact. Imagine, if you can, a world with no Internet. Hard to believe, but we somehow managed to stay in touch.

Time was, you had three choices for communication:  you could talk on the phone, send a letter through the mail, or speak in person, face-to-face. Nowadays, you can “reach out and touch someone” in myriad ways, all doable with that slim computer slab you hold in your hand.

With the World Wide Web, options for interaction grew. I formerly had one e-mail account. Over the years the torrent of e-mails bidden and unbidden became too much for one inbox.

I currently juggle six e-mail addresses, hoping that half-a-dozen slightly-less-overflowing inboxes are more manageable. One account is general use — political organizations pleading for support and advertisers connected with websites I registered with so long ago I can’t remember why.

One address is for corresponding with friends, another is reserved for family. The fourth and fifth e-mail accounts are for older and newer business clients, respectively. Given my meager organizational skills, it’s easier to find client notes in the smaller stacks of two different accounts.

The sixth e-mail is archival. When I don’t know what to do with a message sent or received, it goes to address number six, swept under the rug and forgotten.

Some correspondents choose to text. This can be very efficient communication, but scrolling through years of conversation to verify who said what when can be frustrating.

Of course, one may also use Facebook or Google chat services. Then again, if I don’t see the notification icon, I will never receive the chatty message someone left.

Then there’s the option of being face-to-face though far away, like Skype or FaceTime. These video chat services allow better communication via facial expression and tone of voice. Unfortunately, they also require I wash my face, put on a clean shirt, and straighten up the sliver of my cluttered hovel seen by my computer’s webcam.

After having to recall the necessary passwords, my biggest challenge is remembering people’s preferred method of contact. Some family and friends like e-mail; others have stated they are “text people,” not e-mailers. There are also those who choose Facebook or Google chatting. This requires me to check those services for their messages, lest they berate me for not replying when next we cross paths.

Then again, there’s nothing like the old-fashioned experience of talking on the phone, which is decidedly newfangled now that we’re speaking into thin computer slabs that interrupt us wherever we go, not a handset wired to a phone base attached to a wall.

Even now, my slab’s whistling noises signify a waiting text message, e-mail, or, even worse, a person wanting to talk, face-to-tiny-face, on the smartphone’s small screen.

Tell you what, if you want to talk, send me a letter. If you’re in a hurry, shove a note under my windshield wiper. If it’s an emergency, wrap it around the brick and throw it through my front window.

The sound of broken glass will be a nice change from this whimsically chirping computer slab.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at grimespat19@gmail.com

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