Gurney's Inn
June 13, 2007

Low Tidings

Every man who has a flip phone pretends, at some point in time, that he is a character from "Star Trek." To this day when I finish a call I hold the phone up, snap it shut, and mumble something about Spock to myself.
Why Men Love Gadgets

I'm not a complete klutz when it comes to new wave technology, like a lot of people my age. I was, however, up until 1988, when I was hired to write for The Sag Harbor Herald. Up until then, I had never sat in front of a computer in my life. Worse, I didn't even know how to type.

Back in college a full year of typing was a requirement, or one had to pass the typing exemption test, which was to type something like 60 words a minute. Three times, I enrolled in a typing class, and three times I withdrew after being given a keyboard with no letters on it. The idea was to teach the students to stare at the diagram hung over the blackboard and not down at the keyboard. I couldn't cut it. I finally paid a guy that looked a little like me to take the exemption test. I think I gave him three joints and a chunk of hash. Not bad for three credits, huh?

At The Herald I initially sweet-talked our office manager to type my stories for me I think I gave her three joints and a chunk of hash. But as my duties grew I had no choice but to type them myself, and I did, using the old hunt and peck approach. To this day I'm a two-fingered typist, but a really fast one. I also for the life of me cannot draw a diagram of a keyboard if asked. When I try to visualize where the letters of the alphabet are, I have no idea. My fingers know, but I don't.

When I moved over to the East Hampton Star they had a program called Xy Write. Very few of the computers had the "Internet." Very few of us knew what it was. To me, AOL was the Internet. I used to get a disk with an AOL offer every week in the mail. I saved them in a drawer as if they contained the sacred scriptures. Steve Case, the AOL founder, was either the smartest guy in the world or the biggest bullshit artist ever. He convinced us we had to spend $29.95 to get on the Internet when really we didn't need AOL for anything. All portals get you on the Internet for free.

The greatest con of all time came a few years later when AOL merged with Time-Warner, one of the most respected media giants in the world. It didn't take the rest of the world long to figure out that all the good stuff on the Internet was there for the asking, like e-mail, for example, so paying AOL money was pointless. Poor Time-Warner. The dalliance cost tens of billions of dollars.

At any rate, my computer skills grew over time out of necessity, until I reached a point where I pretty much knew more than most people, certainly more than the mindless minions on our editorial staff. Now I have a wireless laptop and Bluetooth everything.

The mushrooming use of cell phones happened simultaneously with the computer boom.

For a reporter, a cell phone was an obvious necessity. I bought a Nokia early on and it functioned flawlessly. I didn't really arrive, however, until I got my Magnavox flip phone.

Here is a truism almost no one will admit to: every man who has a flip phone pretends, at some point in time, that he is a character from "Star Trek." To this day when I finish a call I hold the phone up, snap it shut, and mumble something about Spock to myself. I can't help it.

So I was content with my flip phone, even though it didn't work nearly as well as the Nokia, until I went to an important meeting with four of the most important men in the world.

The scene was The Independent's Memorial Day weekend ownership meeting. I noticed every one there had something I didn't a wireless device. These were things I knew little about. Jerry Della Femina's whatever-he-has hummed with activity. It rang, it beeped, it played music. He'd constantly gaze at it text messages, phone calls, e-mails, alerts. It was as if he had a personal assistant hanging on his belt, a tiny but very efficient midget that handled the day-to-day affairs about his business empire while he pretended to listen to me drone on about how I deserved a fat raise.

Everyone was getting messages and beeps of every description while I sitting there like a nincompoop waiting for Scotty to beam me up. It was embarrassing.

Our salesman, Ben, has a Palm Treo and cell phone and a racing bicycle and a motorcycle. His Palm takes pictures, as does his cell phone, but he also carries around a couple of digital cameras. He also has a Sony laptop that is small enough for Jerry's midget to use, and of course, an iPod or two.

"We're men," he explained. "Men need gadgets."

That did it. I ordered a brand new Palm Treo 680 and all the accessories that go with it, like the one with a suction cup that allows me to attach the thing to the windshield of my car.

Karen, my long-suffering wife, was skeptical. "Did you really need to spend that kind of money?" She pointed out I have three computers at home, a room full at work, and we both have perfectly good cell phones. "What are you going to do with it?"

It was then that my true genius surfaced. Realizing I had wasted valuable money, and backed up against the proverbial wall, I uttered a few magical words.

"You know how I always get impatient when you're shopping for shoes? Well, if I could go online it would give me something to do while you shop and I wouldn't bug you as much."

She ended up buying the thing for me.

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