Note-Passing is Alive and Well

Your humble blogger has been away from Blogspot these past few days because of pressing business elsewhere.  Susie arrived home from Florida early Wednesday evening, and I feted her at our beloved Blue Danube Restaurant.  Both of us stayed up way too late.  She had a great time in Florida, and regaled me with stories of her visits to the Salvador Dali Museum and Weeki Wachee Preserve.

Then, I was a delegate to the 29th Biennial Convention of OCSEA (the Ohio Civil Service Employees’ Association) and AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees).  This took up my attention from Thursday morning until mid-Saturday afternoon.  I won’t bore my readers with gavel-to-gavel accounts of the general sessions, or the elections.  There is nothing to report on the travel front, since the convention was at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown, a mere block and a half from the William Green Building.  Representatives came from all over Ohio, from almost every agency.

The convention, and Susie’s month in Florida, made me realize how much instant communications have come to dominate us, and how we didn’t even miss them as recently as 25 years ago.  During the convention, many people had their cell phones out, texting to people not on the floor in Battelle Hall.  I sent several messages to an alternate delegate, keeping him abreast of the election and the floor fights.  When someone proposed rewording an article in the constitution, lo and behold, it was up on the big screen within a minute or so.  Delegates and others with loved ones on the East Coast kept news and weather Websites handy on their iPads to track Hurricane Irene as it roars northward.

Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden that “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”  Instant communication, beginning with the telephone, created a false sense of urgency that we will never overcome.  Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, and before then, you had to wait for news from relatives worldwide until the mail arrived.  I will grieve the death of the letter if it ever happens.  The voluminous post-Presidential correspondence between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson is invaluable and excellent reading–I’m surprised no one has made it into a two-character play.  What would have been lost if they had telephones?

Henry David Thoreau

I realized during the convention that note-passing, which many teachers saw as a grave sin, never really went away.  Instead of the surreptitiously folded piece of paper moving discreetly from hand to hand below the teacher’s line of vision, we’re now texting back and forth.  At the convention, we were seated by districts, so someone in District 6 (my district) could easily communicate with a friend across Battelle Hall by touching a few buttons on a cell phone and hitting SEND.

Earlier in this blog, I described the 1925 crash of the naval airship Shenandoah, and how my grandfather ran home to get his camera when he saw the ship was in imminent danger.  A co-worker mentioned that some kids today would ask, “Well, why didn’t he use the camera on his phone?”

I grudgingly use cell phones.  I am not sure I would if I didn’t have a daughter living with me.  My cell phones are usually a pretty sorry lot.  I buy pre-paid ones at Family Dollar and use them until they break.  My current one has no back.  The back of the phone disappeared at the party after the World Naked Bike Ride, and I’m sure it was stepped on within minutes.  So, I’m holding in the battery with a wide strip of Scotch tape, which I know is a Band-Aid measure.  (I was amused by Stephen King’s brief bio on his novel Cell: “Stephen King lives in Maine with his wife, the novelist Tabitha King.  He does not own a cell phone.”)

Susie is grateful, I think, to live in this era.  Near the last day of school in June, she was going on a field trip, and realized, after she arrived at school, that she had forgotten the permission slip that I signed and gave to her.  When I was in middle school, I would have just been shit out of luck.  No permission slip, no field trip.  But there was no problem, no crisis.  She called me at work, and the school secretary faxed me the permission slip, I signed it and filled in all the appropriate information, faxed it back, and she was able to go on the trip.