Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things, Part II

Elizabeth Zelvin

For Maria von Trapp, it was warm woolen mittens and girls in white dresses and doorbells. None of those do it for me. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with every computer I’ve owned, as well as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. I’m even a Luddite when it comes to some postmodern devices. But I’m unambivalently in love with my iPhone and my iPad.

Now, I’m not talking about other people’s iPhones. Everyone who’s read my posts knows I have it in for cellphonistas and how they blat their private business in public, especially on public transportation, in crowds, or standing in line with people who can’t get away. But my iPhone—that’s another story.

I do try not to conduct my social life on city streets or even on my deck, where neighbors can hear me, in the country. To tell the truth, trying to hear the other party in my ear in my neighborhood, Manhattan’s Upper West Side, while walking, crossing streets, and trying to ignore the usual soundtrack of sirens, jackhammers, megabass booming from cars stuck waiting for the light to change—well, I don’t know how people do it. For me, it’s like trying to eat ice cream and chew bubble gum at the same time. Can’t do it.

On the other hand, here’s how I might use my iPhone on a typical day:
Check my calendar for appointments, including therapy clients and mystery events. If my plans change, I can make the change immediately. If I have to make another appointment, I can do it on the spot.
Get my reminders. If it’s time to refill a prescription, send a birthday card, or request reversion of rights to a story, I don’t even have to remember to check a list or even unlock: the text appears on the screen with a little ping to get my attention.
Time my exercise. I do stretches and use my walking poles every day, and the timer feature lets me know when fifteen or forty-five minutes have passed. The timer’s also great for preheating the oven and not burning or overcooking the food once it’s in there. Oh, and if I need a catnap in the afternoon, I can time that too.
Take photos and even video if I see something worth recording. In New York City, where anything can happen (my husband once saw a guy, stark naked, riding down Park Avenue on a white horse), it’s great to be able to capture the unplanned moment.
Record things I want to remember, using either the Notes feature to write text or the voice recorder to say or even sing the creative material that tends to pop up when I’m outdoors doing something else or in the car.
Text my husband or a friend I’m meeting.
Check my email and my Facebook page.
If it gets dark, turn on the flashlight app.
Show anyone I can persuade to look the latest music video of my granddaughters performing. (I admit I get a bit Ancient Mariner with this one.)
Look up information to prove a point or enrich a conversation.
Make a restaurant reservation.
Buy a movie ticket in advance.
Check a map if I’m going somewhere unfamiliar by foot.

And here’s how I’m most likely to use my iPad:
Take a much better picture or video. I don’t use my digital camera at all any more.
Make another music video starring my granddaughters.
Check and answer my email.
Send a photo to Facebook and write a post to go with it.
Watch a TV series that I missed or one I’d like to see again. I can spend my evenings with Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis in Oxford, Monk in San Francisco, Or Chief Inspector Barnaby in an English village.
Watch a movie.
Check my rankings on Amazon.
Buy a book or e-book.

A word about texting, which I came to late but find extremely useful: I think the reason it’s so popular is that it allows people to communicate both synchronously, like chat (I text you, you text me back, I text you back…) and asynchronously, like email (I’m driving, and I hear the ping that means I’ve got a text. I read it when I get where I’m going and respond to it when I have time.) It’s less intrusive than a phone call (my husband’s in a meeting with his boss, but I can ask him to bring home a quart of milk or a ream of paper while I’m thinking of it—trust me, I’ll forget later). And I know he’ll see the message, whereas he might or might not check his email. That is, unless he’s left his iPhone home—but that’s another story.

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