Thumbs and Connections

I recently discovered Google Hangouts. This delightfully little bit of technology escaped my perview, until recently, when a friend suggested using it. We had a weekly meet-up with his daughter who needed a social-distancing lesson. Tweeking and twisting our four miles apart cameras over ten minutes, the virtual hook-up went nearly blip free save a few gaggles and glitches. I must say, “pleased” is a word infrequently used in a sentence when conjoined with recent technology, but in this case, I was.

None of us raised with cardboard clickers in our bicycle spokes, or overnight sleepovers with flashlights hovering over scary stories, could ever have imagined ourselves living with such technology. A digital age where single digits are so much more important than ever before.

I’m a pianist. Have always been. Maybe my fascination with fingers is over-hyped because of my chosen hobby/profession. I haven’t taken real good care of my filangy-friends, however. Racquetball injuries – and more than my share of goofs – have set my hands with a permanently dislocated thumb, scars, bruises and hurties time will never kiss away. I’m surprisingly ok with all of that. My younger self wouldn’t have accepted it. He kinda had his thumb up his a**. We all did …

…But, we found ways to entertain our thumbs by engaging them in dirt filled holes, doll houses, and play-dough. We used them non-sparingly to flick a little metal bell on our bikes – alerting the little worms on the road of our approach. Occasionally, dad’s laziness would call our other fingers into service, assisting the thumb in the evening’s changing of the TV broadcast ritual … from one of three black and white channels to another. A pretty simple life for thumbs.

In the 70’s, a thumb could get you across the country from New York to Seattle. Granted, not so soon after you changed the channel for your dad, but possibly a few years after graduating. Knowledge wasn’t always absorbed thumbing through a Funk & Wagnall’s encyclopedia. The cab of a CB-ing trucker named Billy-Dee was the classroom of clarity for many a hitchhiking wondering-wanderer. Roadside ideas ruminated by professors of pavement prognostication were the time stamps on that era.

Not like today when thumbs are so vital in communicating information. I’m writing … using my Samsung phone, alternating letters when needed, using opposite thumbs. Could I be sitting in my desk chair, tapping in letters with other fingers, staring at my PC monitor? Sure. I, simply, don’t want to. It’s too inconvenient. This recliner is comfortable, I have my snack table here, a TV handy if needed, and plenty of blankets.

It isn’t just texting, blogging, and other hand-held forms of writing where we’ve exceeded all youthful imaginations. We’d thumb our collective bell-bottom pant noses at the thought of sharing our joy stick with anyone. The gaming industry’s use of thumbs has well exceeded the pong-era ping fancies we entertained. Slow bee-bloops … back and forth at the end of big, thick wires attached to heavy TV’s at one end and gaming consoles at the other – with thumbs glued hours to the minute.

Today it’s hi-tech, interactive gaming. Thumbs at the ready. Local colleges have team logo matched shirts. (Back when, as Gramps would say, we matched because all of us had orange cheetoh-snack dust drizzled down the front of our shirts.) They probably have regimented thumb push-up drills, finger-fun day, and aerobics for palms. It’s just that serious.

All this to say, I’m trying new technology as needed … and my thumbs are getting a workout for sure. Not so much with Google Hangouts, though. That’s more like a talk-y kind of experience once all tech stuff is out of the way.

Seeing another human live on screen, and also myself in an even smaller insert at the same time, is …. well … a bit more than my younger self would have imagined. I know I was asked many times early on, “So, Doug. Where do you see yourself, say, in the year 2020 (or, some such year)?”.

Pretty sure my answer wasn’t: “Well, most likely, if my plan works out, I’ll be under a forced quarantine from a once every 100 years virus, blogging about a virtual video site from a hand-held computer device connected to the whole world. We have a reality show president, my life is run by robots pretty much everywhere I go, and my thumbs are more important than ever before. Oh, and the Pirates suck.”

Ask me where I think I’ll be in two months. Hopefully right here on the recliner. It’s comfy. It’s home. I have my thumbs and they’re my connection to something normal for now.

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