The Umbrella List
by Aaron McAlexander
With a little stimulus from Hollywood, just about everyone I know has made their Bucket List, the list of experiences they want to have before it is too late. I too have such a list, but it is a short one that is getting shorter. It is becoming most unlikely, for example, that I shall ever get to fly a P51 Mustang fighter, something I have dreamed of since my WWII childhood.
Instead, I am concentrating on my "Umbrella List," a list of technological inconveniences I have so far been able to avoid having inflicted upon me, and with a little luck, I will be shielded from for the remainder of my life. I was prompted to begin this list many years ago when Dot Jackson wrote in her Observer column that she wanted her epitaph to read "She never talked on a CB Radio."
In keeping with this theme, I have created a list that [partially] reads, "I am confident that I shall be able to live out my life in complete fulfillment, having never waggled a Wii, tweeted on Twitter (Or is it twittered on Tweeter?), poked a PDA, or fiddled with an iPhone. And I may never curl up with a good Kindle."
Now, I am no technophobe; I use word processors, spread sheets, scientific calculators, Google, and multimedia technology almost daily. I have toured the country guided by a GPS. Back in the days of mainframe computers, I learned programming in three computer languages, a process which dissolved a big hole of time from my life as I developed skills which I have not used in twenty-five years.
Although I have some concern that I may be bypassed by technology which could be helpful to my still-to-be-realized writing career, my Umbrella Listing has been stimulated by some recent discoveries: David McCullough has revealed that he wrote John Adams using an antique Underwood typewriter, Pat Conroy writes his novels out in longhand, and there continue to be excellent submissions to Charlotte Writers' Club contests which appear to have been pounded out on well-worn manual typewriters. If I have a block while composing on my computer, I’ve found that I can sometimes restart the flow of words to the page by switching to writing with my vintage Waterman fountain pen.
There is much new technology which is, no doubt, useful to many people, and there is an equivalent amount of technology that, for people like me, will never return the time invested in mastering it. I contend that most technological advances which have truly improved the quality of human life were widespread by the mid-twentieth century. Most really significant technological marvels like indoor plumbing, reliable automobiles, dial telephones, and lava lamps, were all available to Ozzie and Harriet. What does it tell you about human priorities when half a billion people in the world currently experience the technological schizophrenia of being able to yammer on their cell phones while they must defecate in the street? OMG!