I have never been very hip to the times. In my second-grade class photo, I am the child dressed as a pioneer, blocking the head of Jason Wimbish with the brim of my big straw bonnet. “Little House” was the dream then — I knew a lot about sod — and it is the dream now. This past summer, I lived in cabins, read things, wrote stuff, did my best to ward off jokes about the Unabomber.
The first time I ever used the Internet was to look up pictures of Beanie Babies. I had a book with pictures of Beanie Babies, which I read as I waited for the photos to inch their way across the screen, scrolling down every once in a while to see if Jinglepup had loaded. I was not very impressed. Later, my mother sent me to computer camp, where, shunning robotics and the kids whose parents worked at Microsoft, I typed all week on Notepad about “Ella Enchanted” — I was making a website about books.
Then came my very tech-y middle school — where I did not do any IM-ing in the beanbag lounge, or pass my typing test, having scored a negative words-per-minute. The school was always trying to incorporate technology in novel ways — our seventh-grade history textbook arrived with some sort of downloadable girl named Zoe; in the most Seattle of science projects, we had to make a map of woodland creatures waltzing through the local watershed, using Arcview GIS. I resisted.
And I continued to resist — I did not want Facebook; I did not want to talk to Alla, the menacing Russian woman of the computer orientation program whose daughter was rumored to be some sort of dominatrix; I did not want to install a home wireless network, when, on a good day, I could steal my neighbor’s.
But of all the places where I’ve been young and technophobic, I feel most Cro-Magnon here at Yale. Everyone is so good at using the tools here, so hip to these scurrying times! In contrast, I have grown less and less functional; I do not respond to e-mails because there are so many; I will not write anything for your magazine unless you find me in the dining hall, talk to my face, grab my arm. This is problematic. But I keep imagining some golden Yale time that I just missed — after it got fun to be a woman here, but before the little devices hit the scene. I think those Saturday nights must have involved a lot less switching and moving, and you must have ended up in rooms a lot — with your people, without your people, hanging out.
This is really just the way I like to do things. I realize not everyone prizes a rotary phone or wants to drive a car with flatulent speakers old enough to be a member of their peer group. I do not think there is a cultural crisis. As for those tense, tired questions — What about the newspaper? The book? — I think they will sort themselves out. I imagine people got just as jumpy when the sun set on the last staunch, transliterating monk.
Lately, when I hold my comically long phone up to my face, and it makes that little sound that it has been making that it should not make, I can only hope that it will live a little longer. I kept my first one for weeks after it only worked plugged in, until at last conceding that it was no longer mobile. Now, as then, I do not want an upgrade.