This New Year’s Day, Zack and Zeke, two Paso Robles old-timers, sat on a bench in the downtown City Park. Zack asked Zeke, “What’d you get for Christmas?”
“A pair of reinforced arch supports,” said Zeke. “How about you?”
“A new walker,” said Zack.
“Oh yeah,” said Zeke, “I noticed the new tennis balls. Christmas gifts sure aren’t what they used to be.”
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“No, they aren’t,” said Zack, “and neither are we.”
“Come to think of it,” said Zeke, “Some old-time Christmases were skimpy too. My father told me his only present one year was a new pair of shoes. He loved them so much he took them to bed with him every night.”
“Yes, some gifts were skimpy.” said Zack. “My father told me that one Christmas all that his parents could buy him was a toy gyroscope. After Christmas, his class members took turns going to the front of the room to tell what they’d received. Some had long lists. All my dad could do was to show the tricks the gyroscope could do, such as balancing on a string like a tightrope walker.”
Zeke changed the subject. “This Christmas lots of kids and adults probably got smartphones or look-alikes. I’ve never used one.”
“Me neither,” said Zack. “Would you like to own one?”
“No,” said Zeke, “I’m too old to get smart. And smartphones aren’t so darn smart either. I remember when phones were really smart. They talked to you. They asked what number you wanted and they got it for you. You didn’t press or swipe anything.”
Zack said, “Smartphones and other electronic trinkets remind me of the beads and junk that white traders peddled to cheat the Indians.”
“People seem to be addicted to them,” said Zeke. “They spend many hours thumbing their communication gadgets. They’re semiconscious of their surroundings. What can be so important to communicate?”
“I guess,” said Zack, “They want at least some people to know they’re alive.”
Zeke asked, “Do people still write, scratch or carve their names on fences, telephone poles, cave walls or historic monuments? I haven’t noticed much of that lately. Dad used to say, ‘Fools’ names and fools’ faces are always found in public places.’”
“But now,” said Zack, “They’re on Facebook.”