Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Man with No Email Address

This past weekend cold weather blanketed much of the country with pearl white snow, as it tends to do this time of year, helping to usher in a tradition many engage in to keep warm if nothing else, the Christmas party. I gather for as long as Christmas has been celebrated, somebody somewhere tossed together some friends with tacky sweaters, booze, and music to create a memorable evening.

While I’m not exactly a celebration-phobe, it would be fair to say my pension for the holiday inactivity of sitting around doing nothing but eating all day is low at best. Simply put I love to stay busy, like many of my entrepreneurial counterparts, if we could sit still all day we’d probably be in that daft brown corporate cubicle next to you, right? So it is with great irony that as I get older, and more apt to move around randomly, I actually look forward to Christmas parties. Dare I say I love Christmas parties? I do, I love Christmas parties.

Last year at our now defunct office space we threw a grand Christmas party, so grand that I fell asleep face down on a blue microfiber beanbag in our graphic designer’s office somewhere south of 2 AM. The food, the drink, and the people were fantastic at our first and only company Christmas party. Especially the people, many of whom I honestly haven’t had a meaningful conversation with since. I still remember many of the things we spoke about that night, I still cite these long gone conversations in my I-know-the-answer-to-this-random-question quips at dinner with those I do see regularly. With no office to throw a party at, and a clever invitation hanging from my refrigerator door from a dear friend in Ohio, I boarded a plane to the great windy state, in preparation for a holiday party like no other. Besides me, and a few others, it was a cousin only affair, which remarkably resulted in more guests than most parties would have inviting family and friends alike.

In well appointed house on a street full of them crammed a group of young adults, a delectable spread of food that included frosting bearded Santa cookies, and of course the sounds of one of those all-carols-all-the-time radio stations blaring from a boom box you have to be in your thirties to own. Knowing virtually no one, except of course for the host, it was prime turf for new conversations, new discussions, new stories about life in America’s heartland. Being a southerner now for the better part of the past decade, I treasure the time to reflect on what had me a day away from living in Central Ohio for presumably the rest of my life. While this blog post could be about any dozen of the great discussions I had with this big Greek family, one in particular seemed head and shoulders above the rest, the man I met with no email address.

Standing a modest five six or so, dressed in khaki pants and a flannel shirt, with black-rimmed glasses, he looked as if he could be an internet junkie like the rest of us. He had two legs, two arms, eyes, and ears to boot. He smiled like a human, talked like one, and laughed like one too. Yet stunningly, he has no email address.

When winter arrives in Ohio one no longer needs to rely on refrigeration, that is what the porch is for, or so I learned from some of the guests at the party Friday night. Apparently nature can keep a 12 pack of beer just as cold as Whirlpool could. So it should come as no surprise that the front porch of this domicile became a place of constant activity. Think of it as a big outside icebox sans deli meats for holiday lights, and a wood swing. It was there I first got to know the man with no email address.

So what’s your passion? This is the question I asked, over and over again, until he finally told me, if for nothing else to get back to the warm inside with the rest of the people. He was into cooking foods, fine and modest alike, he spoke of olives like I would Google Apps, he talked about the communal benefits of cooking for friends, as I might pontificate on the benefits of instant messaging among coworkers. Fair to say this man’s a foodie.

Imagine my surprise when, in passing, after I propose sending him a link online, he nonchalantly explains that he does not have an email address. I don’t even have a computer, the man said as my jaw hit the floor. No computer? No email? Under 50, wait hold up, what’s the alcohol percentage in this Christmas ale I’m drinking?

Yes, I don’t do email, no need for it he explained with a smile. This is all it took to secure the unimaginable truth into my brain for good, I’ve met someone from my generation, the digital one, that wasn’t tethered to an internet connection like a writer to coffee.

The subtle explanation was given with ease, no anxiousness, it was as if not only did this man not have a computer or the internet, but he was totally cool with it.

In the world we live in today, in the world I live in today, the internet is a means to nearly all ends. I make money online, and take that money and pay bills online. I shop online, research my polling location online, and do nearly everything and anything else you can think of online. If you are reading this blog, you too are obviously online, chances are you’re also under 50, with a smart phone, and an income above average. So why, really, why is it that one person not having any type of association with the internet is that shocking to me, and probably you too?

I can’t imagine life without Gmail nonetheless the internet. I can’t imagine what I’d do with all my time if I had no computer, no Facebook to spy on old friends with, and no iTunes to spend way too much money on albums I may or may not like. I simply can’t imagine what I’d do with all that time. Which is why I probably should find out.

The truth is, as is obviously the case with this person, being different today isn’t getting the latest and greatest gadget, but instead disconnecting from them all together. The habits of a nation shouldn’t influence our day-to-day life in such dramatic fashion, we should be able to disconnect and still smile, like my friend with no email did all night long.


Not too long ago I used to joke with a friend about the apocalyptic views of our parents. My mother is constantly presenting what if scenarios that deal with no energy, anarchy, and of course no internet. My friend's mother drew from the variety of disasters in the genre of food shortages, contamination, and world disease. Either way, our elders seem to have a greater adoration for the simple life. They not only think about it, they prepare for it. This is one of the many lessons we can take from our parents, and know that just in case, it probably wouldn’t hurt to see what life is like without a computer, the internet, and yes, even an email address.


Jennifer said...

Every now and again, I have to take a computer fast to demonstrate that I really can live without it.

It's been a while since my last fast, but I don't feel like I need one right now since I took an extended blogging and writing break this fall.

Clark Covington said...


Read your post. Very interesting experiment you did, and the results seem to be in line with what I've thought about for sometime now. The world really does still turn when our computers are off.

Thanks for sharing!