Caught Up in the Race

     What was life like before the internet?
     That’s a question anyone over the age of twenty, give or take, is most likely to hear from their kids one day. It’s a question I think most people don’t know the answer to, regardless of their age, unless they happen to belong to the minority who still thinks the computer is a novelty.
     I remember what life was like. You read books to entertain yourself, or watched whatever happened to be on television at the time, played board games, did crossword puzzles, went to parks, looked for something you could consider a hobby, went to the mall, rented movies, read the newspaper, and so on.
     Nobody owned a cell phone, yet magically the earth continued to spin on its axis at the proper angle, the seasons turned, and if you called someone’s house and they weren’t available you left a message and waited for a return call. You did not act as if Armageddon was at hand because you were unable to communicate at that instant.
     People tended to get more things done with their time, because they didn’t have to multi-task every damn thing in their lives. Dinner with the family was just dinner with the family, and if the phone happened to ring (remember when 6:00-7:00 p.m. was off limits?) you ignored it and asked someone to pass the peas.
     Dinner with the family didn’t include taking a work call, responding to an email and a follow-up text message, listening to one of your kids’ jokes, and then making a work call while asking someone to pass the peas.
     Work was more productive. Life seemed less stressful, certainly less hectic. Reality television didn’t exist.
     I don’t mean to get all treacly. There were times before the internet when immediate access to information would have been very helpful. Lots of times. When the ability to get hold of someone that instant was important, even critical. But those times were, and are, fewer and farther between than many people might realize.
     I thought of all this while watching “The Bad Girls Club” reunion show, surfing Perez Hilton’s website, making a work call on one phone, reading an email on my Blackberry, and sending a text message with another phone. A commercial for the new Droid phone/personal computer/lifeline came on. I was in the middle of fast-forwarding the commercial thanks to TiVo, and noticed you can listen to music, get directions, play games, text friends, get real estate listings, and so on.
     Um, I just need a cell phone to make phone calls. Really, so probably do you.
     Life before the internet. Not even two decades, yet already a million light years away.

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