Admitting to Not Being Technical

How many middle-aged women does it take to install Netflix?

On Christmas Day at my home, it took 3 women using 4 clickers and one iPad, and at midnight we shouted with glee at our accomplishment. Let “us” not be called the techno-idiot generation, thought I, who was the least helpful in the process.

I still laugh at the fact that twenty years ago I thought receiving faxes placed unnecessary stress on people,  and installing a fax machine at the office was not going to move me to respond to any message faster than the usual 5 day turn around time we experienced with Canada Post. Yet this month we welcome in a new era, absent Canada Post. Like the Government of Canada, March of Dimes has already almost entirely ceased mailing out cheques, but whatever will we do about soliciting donations from our 30,000 strong donor base, and honouring our commitment to sending out receipts and thank you letters?

Does any reader remember the beauty of a hand written letter? Not only were letter writers careful to choose their words, but also their stationery, and penmanship mattered. Cursive writing was an art form. Receiving letters was a gift, treasured, remembered, oft reread, stored, scrap-booked, sometimes read aloud and shared. I personally practiced writing small neat letters on blue aerograms, tissue paper thin, foldable forms that eliminated the need for an envelope, and kept the cost down for overseas letters. How else could I have sent home 115 letters over a one year period while teaching in Kenya? How else could I find among my mother’s treasured momentoes one shoebox holding 115 letters, recalling my adventuresome first year away from home?

Technology brings me movies at my finger tips, but electronic Christmas cards, text messages, Facebook photos, and online bills don’t elicit any emotion, no anticipation or desire to hold on to a moment. It’s delete, delete, delete. I have no electronic scrapbooks. Photo albums thus created are not hauled out to share, nor laboriously matched to stories of personal adventures. There are few unique photos; google holds more wonders than any personal photos of a trip can manifest. Technology does allow me to blog, edit, self correct, and a search engine like  google will even suggest words.

But letter writing for me represents not just a bygone past time, nor curious art, but style, grace in communication, with interludes of waiting, contemplating, imagining. I am reminded of the importance placed on such communication, especially by waiting loved ones. I have read letters my father wrote his parents during WWII when he served in the RCAF in London, letters my newly wed mother wrote her parents when she settled in the small backwater town of Trail BC, letters my love sent to me from Igloolik, NWT, as I waited patiently, and not so patiently, to be invited to join him.

Once upon a time I rushed home to get the mail, whether I lived in Calgary, Vancouver or Toronto, but now the poor letter carrier has only junk mail, donor solicitations,  notices from elected political folks, and unwanted magazines. So, to the Post people whom we’ll miss and to the institution of mail service, and the creativity of generations of letter communicators, I salute you. I will try harder to appreciate the intel chip, memory cards, electronic dashboards, and the wonders that greet me every day when I flash on my screen. And, I’ll be most pleased to receive personal letters, in any form, in which my loved ones wish to send them.