Small World

Every morning my husband, a software developer/engineer,  has a meeting via conference call with members of his team.  Employees live all over the place, but usually near main offices in Virginia, Massachusetts, Canada, and India.  One of the people in Virginia, where they had a snowfall of 2″ yesterday,  asked my husband, “so how’s the snow in Maine?”

Before my husband could answer, one of the team managers in the conference call piped up, “Who wants to know about Maine?  I live in western Maine!”

My spouse said, “Where in  western Maine?”

“Oh, I live in a small town . . . on a dirt road . . . in a remote location ” which turned out to be the town next to ours, only  5.6 miles from us!  Her parents bought a lakefront summer place there years ago, and then decided to retire there.  Recently this manager bought land near her parents; she and her children and spouse are living with her parents while their new house is under construction.

My first reaction was, “This is unbelievably cool!  Of all the places in the world, and it turns out this person is working on the same project, and lives 5 miles down the road from us in such a remote area! What are the chances?  Who would have guessed?”

As I thought about it some more, this strange coincidence invoked my neo-Luddite side.  I find it amazing that we can be so immersed in something such as our jobs, work with the same people everyday, yet not know a thing about them because we may not have any personal contact with them, all thanks to technology.  Being technically savvy with one’s computer (and the use of email and texting) has allowed us to keep in touch with far-flung friends, but has decimated the art of letter-writing.  Who has the time or desire to sit down and write a 10 -page letter when you can zip off a 2-line email?  We can’t even write without abbreviating (lol, gtg, ttyl, omg).  We rarely make the effort to go for a cup of coffee or speak on an intimate, deep level with good friends in person.  We can “friend” someone yet how many of us really know what it is to be a true friend?  Do our relationships with our friends have the same level of intensity and love as the friendships that our parents and grandparents cherished? And:  did our parents’ generation experience the degree of loneliness that people feel today?

Recently three of my grandsons ages 8, 9 and 10, went on an all-day field trip with their school.  While they enjoyed themselves, they found the long bus ride boring.    The root of their displeasure was based in the fact that they were the only boys who didn’t have a Nintendo DS hand-held game machine.  Each of the other boys was unto himself, playing away for the long hours the bus was en route to their destination.  There was no talking or singing or interacting (although I am sure the bus driver and chaperones were blessing the Nintendo corporation for the zombie-like quiet).

When I was a kid we survived long bus rides  singing endless renditions of “100 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall” at the tops of our lungs.  But I can’t say I was bored, singing and  laughing the entire way with my friends.

How are these same little boys going to relate to their wives 15 years from now, I wondered aloud, if human interaction and conversation becomes an annoying interruption that keeps them from their hand-helds?  My daughter replied that it wouldn’t be a problem, because their wives would meanwhile be so immersed in sending and receiving text messages to their girlfriends, they wouldn’t realize they were being ignored.

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