Richard Daybell – Novels, stories and short humor
Apple’s iPhone5 went on sale last Friday and sold out within nanoseconds. It does wondrous things, I guess. It must, because 5 million people jumped right on it. It costs $649. We have a phone that’s attached to the wall. It lets you talk on it, that’s about all. We have a cellphone, too. I’m not sure what all it does. It must not do much. It cost $14.99. Chances are I’ll never buy an Apple iPhone5. Technologically, I’m pretty far behind the curve. To give you an example, here’s a piece I wrote back in the 90′s about my first fax. I know, people usually write about first loves, first cars and first jobs, but when you’re hopelessly behind the curve . . .
Fax Me the Pillow That You Dream On
Officially, it’s known as a facsimile communications machine. Those on more familiar terms with it call it a fax machine.
I prefer facsimile communications — it’s formal, cold and aloof — just the way I would like our relationship to remain.
Our relationship is new, and it’s more of a brief encounter. I recently, for the first time, sent a facsimile to someone. It’s worth noting that not only are a lot of people on a nickname basis with the thing, but they also have made a verb out of what was clearly intended to be a noun. It is important that every thinking person take a vow never, never to fax anything.
I don’t know if that someone to whom I sent the facsimile ever received it, but I did send it. I did it; it’s over; I can get on with my life. It was this someone, of course, who instigated the whole thing, suggesting that this particular document needed to be rushed enough not to trust it to the vagaries of the postal service. I myself happen to be a fan of postal delivery. You stick something in an envelope, slap a stamp on it, and a few days later, a real human being, beaming with pride, delivers it to its destination. It’s easy, it’s fun and it’s environmentally friendly.
After determining the location of the nearest facsimile communication device and preparing the document in question, I sat down with paper and pencil to list pros and cons, possible dangers inherent in the action, and penalties for lack of action. I could remain defiant — stick it in an envelope, slap a stamp on it, and let the chips fall where they may. That would have been a rational response, a consistent one, and the safe one. But as I prepared to lick the stamp, I noted that it portrayed tiny astronauts landing on a tiny moon. These brave explorers, these one-giant-leap-for-mankind heroes looked up at me as if to say “Wimp!”
So even though I deeply distrust and avoid anything invented after 1967, I decided to go for it. It was a moment filled with emotional stress; breaking a technological barrier usually is. For those of you who have yet to screw up your courage and try it, I am happy to report that the anticipation is worse than the experience itself.
I removed the document from its mailing envelope, unfolded it, and inserted it in the rather harmless looking machine (quicksand looks harmless, too). I picked up the receiver of a rather ordinary telephone, dialed my recipient’s number, and waited for my cue. The cue is an ear-shattering screech (just like, for those of you who remember the movie Fail Safe, the screech that came to the President of the United States over the hot line, indicating that our inadvertently launched nuclear missiles had reached the USSR, and Moscow was no more).
Once the screech ends, you crawl out from under the desk, press a button, and the paper disappears into the machine. A minute later, it magically reappears. Presumably, the original has been divvied into millions of little molecules, each of which reproduces itself. The clones are then fed through the phone lines to be reassembled at the other end and the original is reassembled here. I don’t know. I do know the machine ironed the creases out of my document; I can vouch for nothing beyond that.
I may never send a facsimile again (and I will not fax) but it was worth experiencing. It fills one with that same heady exhilaration that diving to the ocean floor or landing on the moon must. And even though I may never send a facsimile again, I’m seriously considering giving the electric can opener a try. Technology is running amok, and it’s sweeping me along with it.