Time to simplify

My Thoughts, Exactly

–Jim Chase

I spent the better part of two hours a couple of weeks ago waiting for my wife’s delayed flight to come in to LAX. At least I think it was two hours. Like so many people these days, I stopped wearing a wristwatch years ago. Who needs one? Every cell phone I’ve owned as far back as I can remember has been able to give me the precise time whenever I need it.

Last month, however, it was time for our entire family to upgrade our wireless phones to newer models (which not surprisingly always seems to “upgrade” our monthly bill, too).

And therein lies the problem. Because, every time I get a new phone, the learning curve to make a simple call gets steeper and steeper. Heaven forbid I should want to check e-mails, send a text, check a voice mail, or any of the 63,452 more advanced things the phone will do. We all know about the dangers of texting and driving. But sheez, I’m not even sure I should breathe and use my phone at the same time – I might suck in a low flying finch.

In my defense, it’s not like I’m some technological mouth-breather or anything. As a once serious musician/songwriter, I could record songs using state-of-the-art, multi-track reel-to-reel tape machines. I wouldn’t bat an eye doing sound-on-sound recordings, ping-ponging tracks and running a wall full of outboard gear including parametric equalizers, or compression and noise reduction hardware. In other words, I’m not afraid of – nor am I in any way a stranger to – technology.

But, there I was at the airport, simply trying to figure out how get the #!*%&^! time on my cell phone. I sat there staring at that square of plastic, pushing buttons and trying to bring up the clock for so long I almost didn’t see my wife walking past on her way to the baggage carrousel.

The thing is, I had tried to choose the simplest phone available. Not wanting or needing the latest and greatest 3G touch-screen i-wonder, I looked for a phone that would merely survive the next two years in my presence. My last phone barely functioned after spending 30 minutes in the pocket of my board shorts while soaking in a very hot tub on the Celebrity Millennium bound for Ketchikan, Alaska almost two years ago.

My new replacement phone was even listed in the “simple phone” category. Little did I know that its manufacturer also assumed I would regularly be lost in the wilderness and need additional features like a digital compass, emergency lighting, GPS orientation and many other bells, whistles and survival tools – all of which are easier to find than the clock. Sigh.

However, the same weekend I nearly chucked my phone onto a runway at LAX, my technologically advanced son – he who was born with a sterling silver flash drive in his mouth – was delightfully dumbfounded when we dragged out an old portable record player to hear what some of our old vinyl LPs sounded like after all of these years. With great hesitation, our young wizard of the web and all things digital, put a big round, black vinyl platter on the spindle of the turntable and turned on the power. As the disc turned at 33-1/3 rpm, he lifted the tone arm off the post and … was stumped. He looked at the slowly spinning LP, looked at me, looked back to the record, back at me and said, “You start this needle thingy at the center, right?”

Such blissful naiveté. Dear old dinosaur Dad was, of course, happy to instruct him in the old ways, and nearly an hour later, he was still sitting in front of that turntable, listening with newfound appreciation to the sounds of my youth.

Any day now I’m going to ask him how to find the dang clock on my phone.

I’ll see you ‘round town.

Jim Chase is a lifelong CV resident and freelance writer.  He can be reached at