Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

May 24, 2013

Back to basics in a brave new world

— — At 6:37 a.m. the assault begins. Adele’s rich voice fills the entire house, “There’s a fire starting in my heart. Reaching a fever pitch, it’s bringing me out the dark. Finally I can see you crystal clear ...”

No response. No movement. No other sound. Aside from Adele.

The lump on the bed that alarm clock is supposed to wake up continues to sleep peacefully, deaf to the soaring vocals of the Grammy award winning singer. “The scars of your love remind me of us. They keep me thinking that we almost had it all.”

Still, that stirring voice causes no stirring from upstairs. The singer is rolling in the deep while the young teen stays rolling in deep sleep. Even having the alarm placed across the room out of reach doesn’t coax awake the zonked-out sleeping beauty.

Although I enjoy Adele, I don’t enjoy her at 6:37 a.m. Eventually, the slumbering adolescent learned to put on a different radio station or a CD that would get her out of bed — at least a little more quickly. Usually, it is one of those obnoxious stations where two guys with goofy names are pulling pranks or inviting listeners to call in with some bizarre comment. That would be enough to get me out of bed immediately to turn off the alarm.

Actually, it takes a lot less to wake me up. A radio alarm clock playing soothing classical music with the volume set to only four makes me jump out of my skin, so it’s not a problem to jump out of bed.

We are all different and we have to learn what works for us and make adjustments. What works for one, may not work for another. Sometimes we have to be very creative and find a completely new and original way of doing something.

Or sometimes we have to find a very old way of doing it. I stumbled onto a perfect example of this the other day. I was walking out of our local downtown coffee shop where professors gather with students, locals gossip over lattes, mothers wrangle with children at a nearby playground ... and one young man taps on a typewriter?

The clicking-clacking of a typewriter stopped me in my tracks.

Laptops are as common as croissants at this coffee shop but I’d never seen anyone typing away on an old-style typewriter. In fact, I hadn’t seen that anywhere in about 25 years.

I’m not the kind of person to shy away from a stranger. Especially when I have a question mark flashing in front of my face. So I approached the young man.

“Excuse me,” I said hesitantly. “I hope I’m not interrupting you, forgive me if I am, but I just had to ask: Why a typewriter?”

The young man laughed and explained that he realized awhile back that he was too easily distracted when working on a laptop. His mind would wander and he’d find himself checking YouTube or some other site. He discovered that it worked for him to pull out his vintage Royal Deluxe Portable typewriter to copy his study notes. He would type and retype the notes until he felt they were imprinted in his brain, as typewritten words were once imprinted on onionskin paper.

This was his way of combating both an attention deficit and the general distractions of the wired world. His non-smart cell phone sat next to him, offering no temptation because he doesn’t text.

The young man said he got the idea during a study session when he was once again surfing the net rather than studying for a test. Catching himself, he decided to search for typewriters which would help him avoid being caught again in the distracting web of the web. He found the antique instrument online and bought it. It likely dates back to the 1930s or 1940s.

Old-fashion technology was put to work. Or, should I say, put back to work. It proved it was superior to the latest inventions in this circumstance because it could act as a barrier to the high-tech temptation of having the world at your fingertips. Sometimes having everything is having too much, way too much. He’s also learned an old-fashioned concept: discipline. He resists the Wi-Fi available at the coffee shop and determinedly focuses on the wireless power of his own mind.

Of course, the high school senior explained, he still has to use a laptop to do research and write reports, but his Royal Deluxe Portable serves his study needs well when he can disconnect. He supports the argument we parents often employ — that your brain connects better when you disconnect.

A college journalism professor tried a similar experiment with his class, having them produce the last newspaper of their summer session with all the old tools of journalism. He found them to be more collaborative and energized. They gave each task more focus and attention. Similar to the guy with the typewriter.

It is wise to reassess a situation and be willing to look at it differently, experience it differently. Even employ methods considered outmoded or archaic. That’s how a young man found an old way that works for him.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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