On Christmas Day I was walking around Moody Pond, and walking toward me was Al Pozzi.
I don't see Al regularly or frequently, but whenever I do, we have a pleasant conversation, and this time was no exception. I can't remember how it began, but a few minutes into it, Al said he got a new car.
"Oh?" I said. "Do you like it?"
"Sure," he said, with a shrug.
"You don't seem all that excited about it," I said.
"Well, I'm not," he said.
"It came with an instruction manual."
"They all do," I said.
"Of course," he said. "But this one is about as big as the Brooklyn phone book, and I can't figure out anything in it."
He shook his head.
"I mean, the dashboard's got more buttons, switches and readouts than a jumbo jet," he said. "And all I wanna do is turn on the radio!"
A tear formed in the corner of his left eye. There was no wind, but it was pretty cold out. Sometimes people's eyes water when it's cold. Then again, sometimes they don't.
"Hey, it'll be all right," I said, resting my hand on his shoulder and giving a manly squeeze. "You'll get all that stuff figured out, no prob."
"You think so?" he said, his face brightening.
"Certainly," I said. "I mean, it's just a car. You've been driving them for over a half-century. You'll figure this one out just like you did all the others."
Of course I was lying through my teeth. The confusion he feels now is nothing compared to the confusion he'll feel later. The sad truth is, when it comes to technology, Al is as lost in space as Major Tom. And he always will be.
How do I know this? Simple: Technologically, I'm at least as lost as Al.
And why is this? It's not due to a lack of skill, smarts or aptitudes. It's because, ultimately, neither of us gives a tiddly-doo about technology. Or at least not about the latest, greatest, fastest, most-est or anything-est. Changes and improvements in technology are occurring at warp speed, leaving techno-dinos like me and Al in the dust. And it's a dust we don't mind being in.
This is not to say I want a return to 18th-century dentistry, sanitation, heating and transportation. The Good Old Days can stay where they are.
But neither do I want to master all the latest developments of cyberworld. In fact, I don't even want to know what they are, unless they affect me directly, which, of course, almost none of them do.
If I get a digital camera, I don't care if it's also a video and voice recorder and has an extensive file system (whatever that is). I just want it to take pictures. Or how about a watch? Now they can tell altitude, barometric pressure, wind speed, your heart and breathing rate, phases of the moon and the tides, probably even your astrological sign and color of your aura. Which is very swinging. But all I want to know is the time -?and not down to the hundredths of a second.
And even if I did want to find out all that other crap, I couldn't because, like Al, I can't follow the instructions.
For all the cyber-mavens who love the bells, whistles, doodads and mumbo-jumbo that technology has to offer, I say, mazel tov, have a ball, and tweet me when you get the urge. But don't feel bad if my reply is delayed like forever since I don't even know what a tweet is.
But if you think I'm just a spiteful, neo-Luddite kind of guy, I'm not. It's more a case of live and let live. The world's big enough for you to kvell about your 4,000-gig, solar-powered titanium iPhone, and I can stay blissfully unaware (and uncaring) about what it does ... or even is.
Success for the old-school fool
But there's one thing to keep in mind when it comes to technologies: Sometimes the old ones are the best ones. My experience during last week's ice storm is a perfect example.
We got off easy with that one especially considering the dire predictions. Nonetheless, when I came out in the morning, I was greeted by a car that was entirely shrouded by a coat of inch-thick ice. Getting rid of ice wouldn't present much of a problem. All I had to do was turn on the heater and defroster, go back in the house and have breakfast, and by the time I was finished, so, too, would be the ice on the car's windows.
But what did present a problem was opening a car door so I could turn on the heater.
I'm sure if you looked in some super-high-end catalogue, you could find the perfect tool to de-ice the car, maybe a 500,000-watt infrared heat gun that could also start campfires, strip paint and get rid of birthmarks and crow's feet. Set ya back a grand or so, but well worth it - especially considering the fortune you'd save in plastic surgery alone.
I didn't have one of those whiz-bangs, of course, but what I did have was just as effective (when it came to getting the ice off the car door, not the other stuff). It's 9 inches long and has a wooden handle attached to a metal spike. It's an ice pick.
But it isn't any ice pick. On its handle is written, "J. A. Latour, Crystal Spring Ice, 139 Broadway, Saranac Lake, N.Y." James A. Latour was a premier town businessman, owning and/or running, among other things, a livery, a coal and feed business, a car dealership and a dairy farm.
I never knew Mr. Latour, he having died before I was born. But I did know his children, grandchildren and even a great-grandchild or two. And I didn't just know them -?I liked them as well. The pick's resting place is on my kitchen window sill, and every time I see it, it reminds me of Latours aplenty and I can't help but smile.
The ice pick was a giveaway from the coal company, of which ice was one of its wares. How old is it? Old. I don't know how old, but there are two phone numbers on the handle: One is 157, and the other is 348.
I got the pick when my family cleaned out our house after my mother died. I took very few things from the house and have no idea why I took the pick. Something to do with my love of old-time Saranac Lake, for sure. Regardless, on ice storm day I was glad I did, since it liberated my door from its icy tomb in a few short minutes, with a minimum of effort. And why wouldn't it, since that's exactly what it was made for.
I doubt if there's any new, high-tech invention that could've gotten the ice off that door any faster.
But even if there is, it's still inferior to my pick. Let's face it: For all they give us, there's one thing new technologies can never give us - namely, fond glimpses into our past.