Temporary Circumnavigation of Technological Communication.

December 9, 2008

For my father (who is almost seventy) the internet and email have had no intrinsic appeal. He has not been curious to know what everyone else is up to. He does not own a computer. He could not see how owning one would improve his quality of life, for he his (apparently) content with his life the way it is.

He is a very active man. He retired at the age of fifty-three, taking a retirement package to leave the government job where he spent his entire working life. In his retirement he has been through many ‘fads’. I’m sure he would not think of it in this way, but my brother, sister and I would agree on the nature of his interests. They can be plotted in waves. Initially he went through a dancing fad. He danced almost every night of the week. He went round dancing, line dancing and square dancing! That’s right: he used to dance every possible ‘shape’. His next fad was a bushwalking fad. This continued for many years and resulted in my brother’s old room becoming a store room for all of the gear he accumulated in the process of becoming a bushwalker and leader of walks for others. The latest fad is for cycling. He joined a local riding group and cycles more days in the week than he stays home. He often goes away for extended trips into country Victoria.  He has riden up every mountain in Victoria and a few passes in New Zealand. 

Its the bike riding that seems to be the most enduring fad. It has the social element, the experience of the natural world and a health and fitness element without his aging body needing to shoulder extra weight. It is also through cycling that he has strengthened his relationship with his grand daughters (my girls). He used to take them riding every saturday morning. Now that they play basket ball on a Saturday, the routine of being with them has morphed into attending their games and often taking them to them (especially if the times clash and their parents can’t manage to be in two places at once).

But I digress. I was talking about his relationship with technology. However the brief sketch of his interests during retirement will give you a picture of his life and the fulfillment he feels living it without technology. 

Recently he has been considering becoming ‘connected’ technologically. Modes of communication have become largely email orientated to the point where he feels he is missing out on important planning discussions within his riding group. He feels this even more acutely with the deteriorating health of one of his friends from this club who whilst physically able (he is suffering from a degenerative asbestos-related disease) had been printing out important emails, sealing them in an envelope and posting them to my father!!


6 Responses to “Temporary Circumnavigation of Technological Communication.”

  1. zhisou said

    My friend’s Gran got email and loved it. My friend received a beautifully typed email from her telling her so. The problem was that it arrived in an envelope – the Gran had printed it off and mailed it.

  2. ejenne said


    her mind must have been blown when she realised the full potential of email.

    I wonder if old people just have trouble imagining replacing the post?

    When you think about it, letters have been an important part of their lives. The ritual of writing, sealing, posting… going to the letter box, the excitement of finding a perfume-scented or pastel-coloured envelope…

    History has been constructed on letters sent and received… romances via post have blossomed through adversity… songs about the postal system have been written (and sung by Elvis)… wild seeds have been sown (by the post man) – well maybe I’m making that one up, but you get the gist? (There is no agent involved in the delivery of an email)… popular cartoon series have explicated the postal system and heroified its agents (Postman Pat)…

    (… and his black and white cat).

  3. mirabella said

    On Monday I saw the ultimate juxtaposition of technology and tradition: a young woman in the city driving a horse carriage and talking on her mobile phone. Given that using a hand-held mobile while driving a car is illegal, I wondered how that law is actually worded. And I do know of someone who was charged with riding a horse while under the influence of alcohol….

  4. ejenne said

    Hi Mirabella. My father remembers the horse and cart era. I also remember clydesdales delivering our milk when I was a child. Yet in those days communication was via land lines, and box brownies were the latest thing in photographic technology. Now we can snap a pic on our phones and send it anywhere in the world! (Well, my kids can. I’m not sure how to do that yet, but I can get my phone to talk to my computer via blue tooth – the kids showed me how to do that last school hols).

    Please do tell the story of the person who blew .05 whilst horse riding…

  5. mennogirl said

    In another example of emails being printed off, I was touched to find 2 emails I had sent my Grandma from China printed out and stored in her belongings along with some postcards I had sent her. She was a rather amazing woman in that despite her conservative Mennonite upbringing she learned how to use a computer at a rather advanced age in order to compile a book of family genealogy.

  6. ejenne said

    That’s a very cute story, mennogirl. Your grandma perceives a permanence in paper perhaps? I must admit, when digital photos first became popular I didn’t think they could ever replace the glossies in the photo album. Now days with iphoto and other easy ways to catalogue and share I am well and truly weaned of the need to print them off.

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