That thing you do | Chuck's World

By Chuck Sigars | Mar 19, 2014

We remember adolescence. Sometimes we pretend that we don’t, but we do. We might have written some stuff down so we wouldn’t forget. Emotions tend to run high.

We have a nice analogy now, too. If you’ve ever experienced a computer invaded by malware of some sort, with unwanted pop-up ads and pictures you can’t unsee, that’s what adolescence feels like.

An invasion set off by secret subroutines that release acne and sweat while making you taller. Be very afraid, young ones.

Here’s why we remember, though. At some point, around the age of 12 or so, I had a growth spurt, as adolescents do. I was already tall for my age, but I got taller much, much faster.

Like six inches in three months, or that’s what I remember.

We can be so cruel, we humans. Here’s a poor kid, under attack by his endocrine system, and all anyone could mention was how uncoordinated I’d become.

How my arms seemed to be attached to my body only tangentially and with no direct guidance from my brain. How I suddenly had two left feet and the right one wasn’t so hot, either. How I had less grace than a bull in a china shop and smelled a whole lot worse.

Again. I may have taken notes.

It’s never left me, that feeling of being a klutz, even though I don’t remember causing any major accidents or breaking anything other than maybe a couple of glasses at the dinner table.

A lamp, once. Several trips to the emergency room. Otherwise, no issues that I recall.

But I still feel it, the sense that I’m an unguarded moment away from knocking over a display case, and that’s what I was thinking a while back when I saw the wine glasses.

It must have been late fall or early winter, maybe around the holidays, and for reasons known only to grocery store wizards there was a display of wine glasses in a fairly narrow aisle. An aisle I needed to be in. To buy groceries.

And once again that familiar fear crept over me, a fear of fragile things, along with the sound of an entire store laughing. It’s like I have a complex.

SPOILER ALERT: For those of you who are already getting anxious, I will note that no wine glasses were harmed at any point in the paragraph to come.

I must have been wearing a coat, because something brushed a glass as I eased by. A button, a snap, a collar. Not enough of a brush to move it at all, much less damage it. Just enough to make it sing.

Like flicking your finger against the glass. You know the sound. It was a ping, a tone, a perfect A-flat with overtones, a chime that rang out.

And everybody in the aisle immediately reached for their phones.

Including me.

I know you know what I’m talking about. Those barcode-reading handheld things they use in stores to check stock? The ones that sound exactly like you’re getting a text message? You’ve done it.

We’ve all done it, become dogs in a Pavlovian nightmare, conditioned to drool at ringtones, at beeps and chimes that cause us to reach for our pockets or purses like the good guy going for his gun in an action movie. Technology has turned us all into Bruce Willis.

And then there’s what I call IT. Actually, I believe I coined IT, and Mr. Google assures me that this is, indeed, the case.

My wife was doing IT a lot, although of course now I have to explain. IT is an acronym, not a pronoun, and it stands for “ineffectual tap.” The term and ensuing royalties still belong to me, though.

IT is what happens when someone gets accustomed to using a touch screen device, such a phone or a tablet, and then moves over to an old-fashioned, non-touch screen computer monitor.

Someone then gets accustomed to tapping on this screen for moments at a time, frustration increasing, until they realize what they’re doing and reach for the mouse.

Douglas Engelbart and Bill English are credited with coining the term “mouse” in 1963 to refer to a computer pointing device, by the way, although they received no royalties for this.

I’m a squinty-eyed optimist about technology, meaning that I generally think it will work out for the better in the end, more good than bad, but we can see the bad.

Families bent over their separate screens instead of talking to each other. Distracted drivers, a sedentary population, an unhealthy reliance on Wikipedia, an inability to do simple multiplication because, why bother? Use your phone.

It’s just that I imagine us becoming a population of twitchy people, constantly reaching for our devices, jolting alert at the sound of birds singing or wine glasses pinging.

I wonder what aliens would think of us herky-jerky humans with our technological kinetics. I wonder what we’ll look like in 20 years, or 10.

Maybe by then we’ll all have chips implanted and our movements will be moot. Maybe we’ll become a graceful species again, interacting and interfacing at the same time. Maybe this is just a twitchy period for humanity. I’m kind of an optimist about this, as I said. I have hope for us.

And, for the record, I haven’t knocked over a lamp in years. So stop saying that.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.