Our topic today is communication, or the lack of it because of technology. We will start with what I witnessed one morning when my wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, was chatting on the phone with her daughter, Alison. It was one of life’s little magic moments you never forget, like the first time you drove a car – or cut into your shinbone with an ax.

For years we have used a phone that operates out of a little box called Ooma that plugs into the internet cable that comes into the house. Ooma was recommended to me by a techie friend up Waterville way, and because for about $5 a month it gives me a portal to communicate with my friends and hear from offshore marketers, I’ve never had a reason to complain. If I’m expecting a call, I can even put the phone in my pocket while I’m puttering in the rhubarb patch, so it doubles as a cellphone. It is my understanding that some of my friends pay more than $60 a year for their telephone service, so I have a warm and fuzzy feeling about Ooma.

One of the shortcomings of this Ooma phone is that you must take turns talking. You’ve seen two people stand toe to toe and have so much of value to impart that they both speak at the same time. Do that with Ooma, and neither party hears a word.

You should never tell a young male that only one person can talk at a time on your phone because he won’t rest until he has carefully explained to you the difference between a half-duplex and a full-duplex conversation.

It’s not all that interesting and can best be compared with an aged neighbor’s tedious account of how the cruise ship norovirus kept him and 485 other passengers up and running for three days.

It was perhaps this need for the mysterious full-duplex conversation that motivated daughter Alison to instruct her mother how to poke this and that on the iPad that lives on our kitchen table. Marsha did, and, behold, the child’s face appeared on the screen. I had seen the grandchildren bring up their friends’ faces on their little telephones back when they were in grade school, but was unaware that the same technology was also available to adults – and on a machine that I thought was just for crossword puzzles.


You might remember the very popular “Bones” song from 1929 you often heard on the radio. If you’re lucky, you can still hear the melody and words in your head:

“There was no more singin’ in the bathtub” because of “those television phones.” And then you were informed that “t’ain’t no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones.”

After 30 years of hearing the song about television phones, I finally got to see my wife use one.

Just this week, I got an email from a third cousin’s granddaughter in Sweden. She’s been listening to American TV programs all her life and speaks only American English with her little Swedish friends. To hear her you’d think, like, she’d been born and brought up here.

This was not the way it was when my father came to St. George from Sweden in 1931. For the next 40 years, he had very little communication with the brothers and sisters he’d left behind.

And now, overwhelmed by technology, the same thing is happening to me.


My sister, who lives within sight of my house, called and said she wanted to send me some pictures with her cellphone.

I suggested that she email them, as I didn’t know anything about sending or receiving pictures by cellphone.

She said she didn’t know how to email pictures. But she knew how to send them by phone if I’d tell her where to send them.

Forty years ago, she would have simply trotted down to my house and put the pictures on my kitchen table. But we no longer walk anywhere. Prisoners spend more time running around outdoors than children do.

Technology has driven this wedge between family members. Some of us might know about Google but not Twitter, or we might know how to bake bread with our iPhone but not know how to answer the cellphone that is carried by our significant other.

Lucky indeed are parents who know how to send text messages so their children will show up for supper.

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at his website:


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