Sunday, January 4, 2009

Technophobes of the world, unite!

By Rick Morris

In a world where we all cherish our high-tech gadgets, it can sometimes be hard to remember that there are those who choose not to participate in the collective fascination. Sure, old people don't feel the need to be connected -- but what of a younger person who just chooses to "unplug from the technogrid?"

I don't have any idea how many such people are roaming around out there. I feel sorry for them, depriving themselves of the joy that is access to and The FDH Lounge! But I don't know how prevalent they are, even though I happen to know one myself.

Bob Jesitus, a friend of mine who I have been playing fantasy football with for more than a decade-and-a-half, shuns the Internet, cell phones, GPS and other modern amenities. What's fascinating is that he has a higher IQ than most people I know, somebody who has been tagged "The Evil Genius" in our football league. The fact that he has such an inquisitive mind is what makes his decision on these matters fascinating.

As you may have guessed, I would not be writing about Bob were it not for the fact that he received some media attention for his choice. Cleveland Magazine wrote an article about what it might be like to "detox" from modern devices and they included a profile about him because he's somebody who is permanently removed from them. Here's the part that includes him and it gives insight into a decision that most of us, myself included, could not stick by for all the proverbial tea in China:

"Bob Jesitus is slouched at the bar while waiting for me inside the Tradesman Tavern in Parma, a working-class beer joint recently remodeled with a mural dedicated to those who have to physically work for a living. No collars in here are white. Most folks don’t have any collars at all. The drink of choice is a giant beer, nearly a cubit tall and mass-produced in this country.

Bob’s head is shaved, and he’s thin from the seven miles a day he walks as a postal carrier. He doesn’t look 46 years old. He has no cell phone, no computer and no desire to join the rest of Americans in their tech binges. His buddies dubbed him Caveman Bob when they realized how disinterested he is in anything innovative.

'When I spend my money, I want to know what I’m buying is going to last for 10 years,' he says. 'With a computer, it just seems like you have to keep upgrading. It seems like more trouble than it’s worth.'

Having never had these toys, the mailman feels a little like an outsider. When he talks, he sounds like a confused tourist. He can’t understand how two people can sit at the bar together, talking on cellular phones to someone else. Why did they bother coming together?

It just doesn’t make sense. GPS: 'Who gets in their car without knowing where they’re going?' He starts to say something else, but he stops and sighs.

'I feel really old,' he says. 'I don’t know anyone else who doesn’t have a computer.' That includes his elderly mother, who regularly rags on him — she’d rather e-mail him than mail him letters.

'If I went onto the Internet, I think I would probably waste a lot of time,' Bob says.

He’s right. I am getting a week’s worth of work done in three days now without the distraction of endless information. My boss taunts me when I ask him a question: 'You could just Google that.' Half the time he’s forgotten I can’t. The other half, he’s making a point. Still, Bob is right. Though some things are harder, having a good chunk of the world’s information at my fingertips is more of a burden than a joy: There’s no more shrugging my shoulders at a difficult question. I can find it if I just try hard enough.

Just then, an odd man walks into the bar. He has a long, gray beard that hangs to the middle of his chest. He has a plastic bag with the words 'THANK YOU' written all over it in big capital red letters. He pulls out a VHS tape, a plastic squirt gun and a children’s book.The bartender comes over, and he hands her the tape.

'This is for you,' he mumbles. “And if you know anyone with kids, give them these.'

The bartender looks at the man like he does this kind of thing all the time. Bob leans over to me. 'You, me and him. We’re probably the only ones in this place without a cell phone. There’s a line between us and him. Let’s make sure not to cross it.'”

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