Every week, it seems, social scientists find another way in which we divide ourselves into groups. There’s the Generation Gap, the Gender Gap, the Education Gap, people who shop at the Gap and those who don’t, omnivores and vegans, liberals and conservatives, book readers and Kindle readers, rock climbers and normal people, texters and grown-ups, gay and straight, rich and poor, black and white, boxer/briefs and a million other splits. The one that has been bothering me most recently is the gap between the people who read and respond to their email instantly and those who don’t.
”Did you get that thing I sent you about that TV show?” I asked my friend Barbara as we were waiting in line at the Stop and Go Away gas station.
”Oh, I didn’t read my email yet this week,” Barbara said.
”How can you not read your email for a week?” I said a little louder than I had intended. Other people in the line with smartphones in their hands were staring at her as if she’d said that clubbing baby seals was a good idea. They were probably tweeting our conversation. Or recording it on video, hoping we’d say or do something so incredibly stupid that it would get 12 million hits in the next five minutes and get them a three-picture deal with some Hollywood movie company.
But really, what kind of person doesn’t check their email at least every 10 seconds? What is wrong with her? Is she just anti-social, or a menace to society? What on earth could possibly be more important than reading her email? Her children? Her husband? Her parents in the nursing home? Where are her priorities?
I, who took the time to send her an email, am the injured party here. I sent her a note yesterday asking if she would record a show for me on a premium channel that she gets but I don’t because, well, why should we both pay? And then today I learn she hasn’t even read it. What is wrong with her? What does she do all day long if not answer her email? Cook? Clean? I’ve been to her house, it’s just as filthy as mine. Plus, she has a premium channel that she has time to watch while I’m stuck with basic cable.
I hope that someday my friend Barbara will start reading her email every day and not turn into the Technical Amish. Unlike the religious Amish, the Technical Amish can drive cars and use electricity and phones, but they draw the line at email, Facebook, texting and tweeting. It’s all very quaint and soon, no doubt, tourists will start searching them out so they can show their children how people used to live.
”Oh look, Daddy, that one’s putting a letter in a mailbox!”
”Don’t point, honey, it’s not polite. But that’s how it was when I was a little boy. If you wanted to send someone a message ...”
”A message like ‘R U L8?’”
”Actually, no, I mean a long, written message about what you’ve been doing and what the people they know have been up to and ...” Just then Dad’s cellphone will ring and he’ll read, “I’m bored. Can we go home now?”
Barbara asked me what I had emailed her about. I told her about recording the TV show.
”I couldn’t have done it anyway,” she said. “I’m down to basic cable. Why should I pay for 600 channels I never watch? It’s like going to the grocery store and paying for a bunch of food I don’t like and will never eat. That’s crazy. I don’t have time for it anyway. I spend most of my time on Skype with my grandkids.”
Jim Mullen’s newest book, “How to Lose Money in Your Spare Time — At Home,” is available at amazon.com. You can follow him on Pinterest at pinterest.com/jimmullen.