Dialing Up Memories – The Observer March 2023

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Do you remember dial-up Internet?

I just need to know.

I know if you’re of a certain age, dial-up isn’t even in your vocabulary. But for all of us oldies, raise a hand if you remember the sound, the wait, and the length of dial-up Internet. I was still living at my parent’s home when dial-up Internet was around. I can recall coming home from college, needing to log onto something on the Internet and having an entire conversation about my day with my mom while waiting for the Internet to connect.

It was a long wait. Annoying at times. But looking back, maybe waiting a minute or two or ten for things really wasn’t as bad as we all thought it was. It gave us a little extra time together. Last night, we were eating dinner. Most of my teenage kids were at the table with us (a miracle in itself with the busyness of schedules). We had a question about some old Adidas cleats in their dad’s closet and if they were considered vintage. And if so, could they be worth a lot? Within seconds, everyone had a phone out and had the answer. No. They’re worth about $80 even though they’re 25 years old an in perfect condition.

Phones went back in pockets. Question answered. All within a minute. Conversation resumed.

I wanted to ask them all if they knew how fast their world travels. Every question can be answered within seconds with the availability of a phone and WiFi. When I was 15, that would have seemed like space-age science stuff. A computer in your pocket? What?

Now it’s common.

Now, we are expected to answer phone calls and texts and instant messages within minutes of receiving them. It’s convenient and annoying all in one big overwhelming breath. I want to respond to you, but I also want to live hours of my life unbothered by every single message coming in. I want to be present with my people. But there’s also the fact that when I ignore a message with the intent to respond later, my old age kicks in and I forget completely about the message.

I’m not against technology. But sometimes I wonder what we’re missing in this lightning-fast world. The convenience of the fast-paced world is nice, but slow was nice as well. (Except if you want to go super old school before cell phones when people got paged over the loudspeaker while shopping at Wal-Mart. Let’s not go back to that.)

There’s a hurried rhythm to this life that carries its own kind of weight. It’s the weight of “everyone is waiting on me, so I need to hurry up and get it all done.” It can be ignored for a while, but comes rushing in and is always waiting around the corner to creep into spaces that we thought were free from the consuming crush of hurry.

In the “Life You’ve Always Wanted,” author John Ortberg says “one of the great illusions of our day is that hurrying will buy you more time.” Is it just me or does that ring a loud bell in your head that maybe our lives are more out of order than we thought they were? I’m so guilty. Hurry is a well-used verb in my life. I hurry through work. Hurry to clean. Hurry to bring kids. Hurry to cook supper. Hurry to get where we need to go.

I’ve preached slowing down for years. And by preaching, I mean the little self-given speeches to myself. I get better and then I get worse again. I’m faced this year with a senior leaving for college soon, and I want to shake myself. How did we get here? Everyone said if I blinked, it would be gone. I didn’t believe them for a second. But here we are, and I want to go back and savor moments that I rushed through. I can’t. But I can treasure these times. Phones down. Eyes locked on the person I’m with. Hearts together. Head undistracted.

The treasure is always people. Not a place. Not a position. The ones we are with are the best ones.