A Stranger in the Modern World

I was born long before the digital age, … well long enough to have used a typewriter for my school essays, and annoyed my parents by staying on the family phone too long. I have yet to fully appreciate or understand the way people communicate and record information in this modern world. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a foreign land.

I was in town walking down busy Pitt St one day when a young man in a suit ran up, and fell into step with me.

Hi, he said.

Hi, I replied (I’m a very polite person ).

I’m not disturbing you, am I?

No, no (I kept walking).

So how are you?

I’m well, thank you.

When did you get into town?

Oh, about half an hour ago, got off the bus at Circular Quay and thought I’d walk down …..

How about the other night! You were pretty out of it!

Huh?

What? You still in bed? You lazy bastard!

I stopped as the man kept walking – he was talking on a bluetooth in his other ear! I just had a conversation with myself!

Once I stood outside a coffee shop and noticed a couple sitting by the window, facing each other with their heads bowed. The table was small and the tops of their heads almost touched. I thought, what a tender moment! They were actually both using their mobile phones under the table!

Another time I saw a man in the distance holding onto the pole of a parking sign, talking to it. He walked around the pole slowly and every now and then he’d look up at the sign and laugh. I thought oh, poor man! When I got closer I saw that he was talking on the phone using his hands-free kit.

Is it just me or does all this seem weird to you? I saw the above about a year ago and I must admit, events like these faze me less now. Same with seeing a group of girls all dressed up and out to dinner, spending the night taking group selfies and pictures of the food and drinks in front of them, and talking to people on their phones but rarely to each other. I’m getting used to it, but I still don’t understand it. Does it have something to do with social media? Is there pressure to show proof of the things that you do so that people know that you do things? And were you mentally present when doing the thing? Did you actually have fun while looking like you were having fun?

You’re probably thinking, you should talk, you’re writing a blog! You’re documenting the things that you do online. And you’d be right. I’m slowly getting sucked down the cyber-world spiral too. I don’t think this is as far as I go either, as I feel a few photos coming on in the future! Help! Grab my hand!

But really, I don’t think cyberspace is all bad. I spent a lot of time in my youth wondering about things and having no way of getting immediate answers to them like, I wonder what time it is in New York right now, or I wonder who is the head of Vanuatu? (?) And I’d just put up with the fact that I’d never know unless it was important enough for me to do some serious research later on.

Young people out there, the following is a conversation two people could have had before internet and mobile phones came onto the scene.

Say, when I went to Melbourne last year I had lunch at a little shop, I can’t remember its name, but they had steamed Chinese bread, you know the bread that they use for making steamed pork buns, and they used it to make tiny fresh warm sandwiches. The fillings were like pork belly, coriander and a lovely sauce, or tofu and chives, and that sauce! ….. Mmmmm! I still think about that lunch!

Yum! I’m going to Melbourne to visit my brother soon. Where did you say the place was? And what was the name?

It was somewhere in the CBD, it had a name ending in BAO, I know that much, something like Super Bao, or Mighty Bao. It was in a little laneway with graffiti on it, near a university or something. The laneway had an unusual name, something fitting in with the university setting, something to do with books I think. Oh I wish I’d kept the CBD map that the hotel gave me when I was there. If I had it, I could show you.

Where to find a map of Melbourne’s CBD in Sydney? Hmmm. We could go to the Victorian Tourist Bureau, in the city tomorrow, but it will be a bit of an effort to go all that way….. I know, I’ll ring my brother!

(beep beep beep beep) HELLO! WHAT’S WRONG!

Oh hi, It’s just me, nothing’s wrong, I was just talking to my friend here and she recommended a bao place that I should go to when I’m down there. I just wanted to ask you if you know where it is?

WHAT? NOT ONLY HAVE YOU WOKEN ME UP BUT YOU HAVE CALLED INTERSTATE JUST TO FIND OUT WHERE A SHOP IS? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THIS CALL IS COSTING YOU? IT’S $5 FOR EVERY HALF MINUTE! SEND YOUR QUESTIONS BY MAIL! STAMPS ONLY COST 7 CENTS! (click)

Oh dear! Your description of the food really has me intrigued! Perhaps we could find a recipe to recreate it.

(1/2 hour later) I couldn’t find anything remotely like it in any of my recipe books! Perhaps we could go tomorrow to the library to see if we can find it in their recipe books.

No, I’ve tried that already, this is something very new, it’s steamed bread. The only thing I found remotely like it  there was a recipe for pigs-in-blankets.

What’s that?

Don’t quite remember but it was something wrapped in something, but it wasn’t steamed bread!

That’s it! Tomorrow we’ll go to the post office, find a Melbourne phonebook, the Yellow Pages and look up Chinese Restaurant!

It sounds rather tedious.

But what else are we going to do?

True

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