Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Monday, April 25, 2011

Technology and the Wandering Jews

This past Saturday, we celebrated our Ninth Annual "Cohen Family Seder."  This is yet another example of my psychosis, having decided nine years ago to host a seder on the Saturday night of Passover week and invite "all who are hungry to come and eat."  The first two years were small events, in our condo in Sherman Oaks, with the makeshift tables stretching from the tiny dining room past the front door over to the fireplace on the other side of the living room.  After our move to Valencia, our numbers have grown (and shrank and grown again) and as always, the guest list is varied and includes our Jewish and non-Jewish friends and family.  Our family has grown with at least 4 little ones having been born over the past few years (and I think someone was even pregnant at our very first gathering.)  This year, we were 30 strong.  One friend was contemplating bringing a significant other and I told her that he might have to sit on her lap.  She thought I was joking.  We moved out the couches and chair and coffee table and rolled in rented tables and chairs and we all got very close. 

Over the years, we have gone through several different Haggadahs (the books that tell the Passover story) with each being tossed aside (figuratively speaking) in the search for something different, something better, something "more."  Rob's dad Ray led our little band of misfits over the first 7 years and we could never find a book that fit our group quite right.  Last year things got mixed up a bit, with Aunt Eunice handing the reins of her Seder (our family's First night celebration) over to Ronnye and Ray.  Since Ray was leading that seder, he told Rob that it was up to him to lead his own. (After all, it is our house, right?)  Rob decided to go out on a limb and venture far away from the books that we had used in the past, and instead wrote his own tale, a Passover play, if you will.  His surprise ending didn't carry quite the punch we had hoped, when the actor failed to deliver her line and another guest stepped all over it and delivered it for her, without quite realizing what he was saying.  (We chose to announce to our family and friends the impending arrival of Kensi by having his Mom deliver the parting line of "next year with another Cohen" after the traditional "next year in Jerusalem."  She was unable to speak her line, having read ahead and gotten a bit choked up at the news.)

Regardless, we strive each year to make things more interesting.  Not having another birth announcement to keep things going this year, we had to look for something else to do.  I came up with an interesting challenge for our guests.  The story of Passover tells of the Jewish people's flight from Egypt following G-d's deliverance of the plagues and the Pharoah's order for the people to leave.  Our people left in a hurry, without time to let the bread to rise.  The Seder describes the plagues and explains the symbolism in what we eat, why we eat it and even how we are supposed to eat it (reclining to the left.)  But the Seder doesn't discuss what came after.  After Moses led the people out of Egypt and after they crossed the Red Sea, the people wandered in the desert for 40 years.  G-d provided food (manna) and water when it was needed, but what else did the people want or need that they did without for 40 years?  And knowing that they were to be ready to leave at a moment's notice, what did they take with them?

I issued this challenge to our guests, to consider what they would have done, if placed in a similar situation and told to wander the desert for 40 years.  What would they bring with them, and why?  I provided some guidance, that at least 1 or 2 of the items should be "necessary" such as toothpaste, and asked what sentimental items they might bring.  The results were predictable as far as the "necessaries" were concerned, but much more interesting when you consider the sentimental side of things.  It became readily apparent as the discussion moved around the tables from guest to guest, that we were separating into groups based upon our age.  These groups were not born out of what we wanted to bring or could not leave behind, but were based on the technology relied on to achieve those goals.

The discussion started with people telling us what they brought - chapsticks, toothpaste, granola bars, etc.  Rob and I then tried to move the discussion away from the necessities and more toward the sentimental, things that they could not live without.  To provide a real life example, I used myself and explained that I could not go anywhere without my pictures of my girls and my family.  (Anyone who knows me knows that I am somewhat defined by my picture taking and scrapbooking.)  I mentioned bringing my laptop with all of those pictures. (Of course, Ray immediately went to the practical question - how and where would I plug it in, but that's beside the point.)  From there, the discussion got rolling with more and more guests opting to bring photos or albums.  Then we got to the kids. As I mentioned, a line formed by age and it seemed that the younger members of our group quickly went the route of technology, opting to bring their iPhones or iPods, in order to have their collections of music and games close at hand.  One young guest (age 13) wanted her phone so that she could text and stay in contact with her friends.  I apparently fell on the "older" side of the group, having forgotten that so much information can now be carried on something just a few inches square, thinking instead of my laptop which apparently has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

I'm not sure that the object of the lesson was completely grasped (after all, who would provide the cell service or internet connection in the desert?) but the thought process was certainly amusing.  These days, we are surrounded by technology which allows us to keep in constant contact.   I'm not sure anyone "checked in" on Facebook as being at my house Saturday night, but the option is certainly there.  We can instantly tell where our friends are and who they are with.  Celebrities "tweet" their locations and watch as waves of paparazzi follow them around.  We call and text at the touch of a button, we email and surf the net to stay on top of world affairs.  But when it all goes away, what are you left with?  If cell service is gone and the internet is no more, what would you have?  Our children think in terms of this technology, wanting to maintain a connection to their friends and their music.  We adults tend to think in terms of our history, wanting to maintain a connection to our past, holding on to our memories in photos and albums.  Are they right?  Are we wrong?  Or is there a middle ground?  As I type this, I am certain that if cell service dropped completely today, most of the teens in our world right now would not be able to figure out how to pick up a land line phone and call a friend, let alone figure out how to walk to a friend's house without the aid of Google Maps on their smart phones.  For now, I am in limbo, since B is too young to have a cell phone and would rather sit with me and look at my albums and pictures.  For now.  But the time is coming, I am sure, when I will have to enter the battle of the past, and history, versus the future and technology.  I hope that there can be a happy medium or a middle ground, that we can achieve amazing things with technology but still keep that connection to our past.

In the meantime, I can be found in my office, trying to get a handle on the thousands and thousands of pictures I've taken over the years and trying to keep up with all of the new ones I'm still taking.  Feel free to stop by for a trip down my memory lane if you'd like.  And bring your own chapstick.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The times they are a changin'

I stopped at McDonald's this morning on the way to the office - one last egg mcmuffin before the matzah-fest begins.  As I was pulling away, putting the straw in my drink and rolling up my window (all at the same time,) I was struck by how different a "drive-thru" experience is now than it was when I was a kid.  I'm not that old (yet,) but a few things struck me.

First, remember when you used to have to roll up your window using the hand crank?  They would hand you your food and you would sit there for an extra 10-15 seconds to roll up the window, especially if it was raining.  Then came the automatic windows, where at just the push (and hold) of a button, your window would rise.  Of course, things sometimes went wrong with those - I remember a particular '87 Celica that I owned in high school and college, with a window that would only work when it wanted to and sometimes I'd have to pull it from the top, while holding down the button.  Ah, the memories.  These days, my car is equipped with power windows that operate on a "one-touch" system.  I tap the button once and the window rolls all the way down.  I tap it once again and it rolls all the way up.  No cranking or holding buttons needed.

Let's talk cup holders.  These days, most cars come equipped with 2, and if your lucky, one of them is slightly larger to accommodate today's "Super" sizes.  (Do you really need 42 ounces of Coke?)  I can rememer a time when cars didn't even have cup holders.  You know those nifty sticky pads they sell that you can use to stick your phone or ipod to the dash?  They used to make cup holders that stuck to the dash.  yikes.  Of course, in my little Celica, the cup holders were for gum wrappers and trash, coins, a whistle and whatever other junk I could cram in there, so the odds of getting a cup into it were slim to none.

Ordering has changed too.  These days, when you pull up to McDonalds computer screen, it greets you with a message about what they are featuring and then tells you to "order when ready."  The wall of options rises above you on the right, causing you to crane your neck to see every last possible choice.  You make your picks, tell the computer your order and voila! it appears on the screen.  (Yes, I know there is a person on the other end listening and putting it into the computer.)  They even ask you if it is correct.  Sometimes when the screen is out, I feel strangely alone and adrift in that drive-thru lane.  But remember the good ol' days?  The tiny little speaker box on a metal stand that was constantly getting hit by cars and looked twisted and beaten into submission... the crackling voice coming over the line, of which you only heard every third word... the mix of fear and hope as you spoke your order, hoping that they heard "without" cheese and not "with" cheese and hoping that your order would be correct when you got to the window... and wondering how much it was going to cost, because you couldn't hear the person telling you what the total was. 

And then there's the paying.  It used to be that you dug in your purse (or your cupholders) for change, hoping that once tax was added you had enough pennies to get that extra taco or cheeseburger, the drive-thru operator waiting while you counted out the change and dug in your seat for the last few quarters and dimes. Nowadays, noone even carries cash.  You just whip out your debit card and hope that you'll get a receipt at the next window so that you can remember to write it down in your checkbook.

Oddly enough, I had the somewhat dubious fortune to be on both sides of that drive-thru window.  Having seen (and heard!) some strange things on the other side of the window, I always try to be nice to those working there (not that I wouldn't be anyway,) but I always try not to be dificult, and smile and say "please" and "thank you," even when I'm telling them that I wanted "regular" coke and not "diet" and that "no," I don't need to add on any fries with that, and trust me, I don't need to super size my combo.

These days, technology has made lots of things so much easier and quicker.  Keeping those drive-thru times down means more money for the restaurants, so they want things to move quickly.  (Yes, they time it from the moment your order is entered until the moment the food leaves the window and the person pushes the button to "clear" it.)  But wouldn't it be great if someday, you were able to order it from your phone or the screen in your car?  My car already has a map that tells me where all of the nearest fast food places are.  Why shouldn't I be able to tap the location and pull up the menu and order, and have it waiting when I get there.  (This is not to be confused with online ordering for take-out, which I already use on my smart phone.)   Ah, the good old days, when you used to have to actually cook your own dinner (after going to the store to buy the ingredients) or actually park the car, get out and walk into the restaurant.   Then again, I'm o.k. with the technological way of things.  As long as there isn't a big fast food restaurant war where Taco Bell wins and the government starts controlling my salt intake, I think we'll be o.k.