When I was a little girl I used to catch my grandmother just sitting, staring into space. I always wondered what was wrong with her. There was so much to do. Dig in the dirt outside, explore the fields and ditches nearby, wrangle with hissy kittens, chase calves penned up in the barn, ride my bike down the road. Or just plain run full out because being alive was exciting and couldn’t be lived at a walk, much less seated.
But no, she just sat in a hardwood chair and looked off into the distance. She was bored, I thought, and boring.
Now as I am nearing the age she was back then, I realized she wasn’t bored. She was just done with the shindig. I find myself nearly done with it too. I’m tired of dealing with busy-ness of our electronic lives. I heard recently that quantum computing is almost ready for general use. I just sighed, dreading the idea that I might have to learn about that too. (Even as I wrote this, I got word that this web service had an important upgrade, and we needed to update our sites. What? I didn’t even know that I had to update, upgrade or upend my blogging world.)
Like my grandmother, I’m ready to be a surrender senior.
Back when I was little, her time was already fading into the distance. The Industrial Age was about to give way to the Information Age. But in her time, life moved as as fast as she wanted it go. Food was available if she grew it and prepared it. (There was no one better at baking bread than my grandma.) She washed clothes in her new-fangled (but primitive to us) electric tub washer. Bills were paid in full at the time services were rendered. Time payments or billing cycles were suspicious plans of those had wreaked havoc a few decades earlier.
One other thing: She battled a bilingual barrier of experiencing and living life in German (Plattdeutsch, actually) while the world around her moved in English and at a level far beyond what her third-grade education had prepared her for.
She lived through a depression, a drought, a world war, raising eight children on an 80-acre farm through all that. She knew about life, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to know about Disneyland, the nuclear age and the nearly created space program. No wonder that at some point she just sat down and looked out the window rather than the television, which probably annoyed her.
I always thought that I would never let myself become like her. Outdated and overwhelmed. But here I sit, as artificial intelligence and robots prepare to take over our lives, unwilling to go along with it. I’m tired of OS upgrades, smartphones and gadgets that listen to you, manage you, keep tabs on you. I secretly loathe the VR goggles that let you experience images in 3D. As if that somehow compares to standing at a lookout in Bryce Canyon. And I’m not sure it’s such a good idea to ask Siri or Alexa what the meaning of life is.
I find myself wanting the quiet of an analog world. But there’s no where to go to hear it. Sooner or later the steady high-pitched scree of electronics rises to the surface. Inevitably, as you become immersed in the nurturing calm of a real moment, someone’s idiot-phone plays the laugh track they set to notify them of a call from a friend. Everyone around them laughs. No one is fined or kicked off the bus.
However, I have to admit too am addicted enough to it all to wonder if I should to check my smart phone for messages and updates on my social media sites. Still, it’s becoming aggravating that my smartphone does not know when to bother me and when to leave me alone. Paradoxically, it’s beginning to make sense to put my bills on auto-pay and have a robot tend to all the annoying things about life in the Information Age, so I can sit in a chair and stare into space, like Grandma.