DR Bahlman: Flip Phones, Fax and Paper Maps. Can I embrace the 21st century without discarding these? | columnists | Panda Anku

WILLIAMSTOWN – I like to think I’m not easily offended. After 45 years in journalism, a profession that not only invites but also cultivates criticism, my skin has gotten nice and thick. I’ve often said out loud and to myself, “No offense,” and I meant every word. Free speech is often not polite, especially now.

Anger is a different matter altogether. Where offense is an angry wasp, anger is a flea, a mosquito, a no-see-um, a stubborn pest that defies most defenses save toxic chemicals.

I encounter it most often while watching TV or reading on the internet, and my sensitivity to it has increased with age.

During an online browsing session last week, a headline that promised insights into dealing with household chores and other existential threats to civilized living caught my eye.

I clicked on the story and started reading. I wasn’t even three paragraphs in when I heard the high-pitched buzz of annoyance. The tone was weak at first: the author’s theme was “flip phones” which – inappropriately, I think – have evolved into badges of the geezer’s hood.

In fact, this thinly veiled subject gradually emerged from the article’s rapidly deepening swamp in what I call “sweeping” prose: “We don’t mean to be rude, you understand, but…”

My harassment alert system went off and I braced myself for the no-see-ums onslaught.

“Clamshells have no value to anyone,” the article reads. “In fact, they might suggest you’re up to no good. They are often used as “burner” phones.”

The author’s advice? Get a smartphone as soon as possible. The not-so-subtle message? Come into the 21st century. In fact, later in the play he remarks that “it’s a new day”.

There’s no argument there either, except that it doesn’t seem likely that acquiring an expensive electronic device will achieve assimilation into a new era for everyone. It’s not that easy, you see.

It further developed that according to the will of the author, “physical maps”, by which he presumably means paper maps, would finally be disposed of. After all, driving directions can be obtained via a smartphone’s GPS capability, and knowledgeable friends are just a text or phone call away.

Again no argument but a paper card might have been of some help to the person who called me recently to apologize for missing an appointment as it turned out to be taking over 20 minutes to get from Northampton to Adams to drive.

I bet the call was made on a smartphone so the necessary information was literally at hand. Paper maps may be unwieldy, but they show the bigger picture, and that’s sometimes handy. Anyway, it doesn’t justify the season on paper charts. Or via landline phones and fax machines, which were other targets of the author’s greatly diluted wrath.

A landline-to-landline call, albeit infrequent, offers the luxury of clarity, reasonable volume, and privacy. In the 60+ years that I’ve used them, I’ve never had a dropped call.

Because online security is far from absolute, some businesses, particularly law firms, consider fax machines to be the safest way to transmit and receive documents. It would be foolish to throw the machines in the trash because they are obsolete.

I know a selling point when I see one, and the offbeat/chummy tone of the track seems to be gaining popularity with peddlers. That’s okay. They’re just doing their job. No offense.

The Pittsfield author’s book on the way to the big screen?

A principal partner of a county-based company that has produced computer-generated animation for several hit films, has placed Kevin O’Hara’s book, Ins and Outs of a Locked Ward: My 30 Years as a Psychiatric Nurse, at the top of his list of priorities.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said Jeffrey Kleiser of North Adams-based Kleiser-Walczak Construction Co. of the Pittsfield native’s recently published book.

Kleiser said he plans to seek financial backing to turn the book into either a feature film or television series. He praised O’Hara’s writing style, describing it as “lively” and rich in interesting characters.

O’Hara, author of two other books, A Lucky Irish Lad and Last of the Donkey Pilgrims, was a psychiatric nurse in the Jones Unit at Berkshire Medical Center for three decades.

He is currently traveling in Ireland.


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