Humph!

Wednesday 12 August 2015 — Homeport: Falmouth Harbor — IBM introduces the first personal computer (1981)

You know me, dear readers. I’m just a curmudgeonly old priest living in a high-tech world.

I was sitting on a stool at Angelino’s Sub Shop, waiting for take-out. I was surrounded by other customers, all of them senior citizens. Some were texting; some were yakking on their smart phones; some were pecking at their laptop keyboards. “Humph!” thought I. “What is the world coming to?” 

Back at the rectory, munching on my Thanksgiving toasted turkey sandwich, I opened my computer. I noticed an additional Internet connection on the screen. It was the brand-new Wi-Fi service just installed at the old age home next-door. “Humph!” I muttered out-loud. “What is the world coming to?”

This is not ageism, dear readers. The AARP awarded me an official membership card more than a decade ago. I’m a certified old fogey. I’ve earned the right to think old thoughts. Humph.

I remember when technology began to intrude on my life. It came in the form of an official letter from the Chancery Office (sent via the United States Postal Service). It was therein decreed that all parishes were henceforth to have these new-fangled fax machines. 

Remember fax machines? I suppose the rectory in which I now live has one around here someplace. Who uses a fax machine anymore — just companies selling replacement windows and travel agencies hoping to book your next trip to the Holy Land? Fax machines are technological dinosaurs. Humph!

The chancery now sends monthly missives in the form of email attachments. These memoranda can be more than 30 pages long. Besides, emails are themselves going the way of the dodo bird. Humph! Young people send text messages these days, not emails.

Keeping my thumb (literally) on the pulse of the culture, I often communicate by texting. I’ve discovered, though, that when “autocorrect” presumes to change the words I mistype into inappropriate vocabulary, I can inadvertently cuss at little old ladies. Humph! Don’t even get me started on that tool of the devil called “predictive text.”

Now you can make copies of your parish bulletin on your own super-duper, multi-function, high-speed photocopier. They have more bells and whistles than a space module. I hesitate to press any of the buttons, fearing the machine will go into self-destruct mode. Humph! As far as I’m concerned, technology should have stopped with the invention of the mimeograph machine, with its clumsy wax stencils, thick black ink, and smelly blue correction fluid.

Back in the day, even mimeograph machines had their problems. Once I was running off the parish bulletin when the machine went haywire. It began turning at break-neck speed and soaking the pages in ink. The pages flew through the air. The pasty ink caused some pages to stick to the walls. Eventually, I had the presence of mind to pull the plug. No harm done. Well, except some of the bulletin pages had imprinted themselves in reverse on the wallpaper. Humph! I suppose you can still read them on the wallpaper if you use a mirror. Maybe we should go back to the old days when the pastor just read weekly announcements aloud from his spiral-bound notebook. 

Speaking of the old days (in technology, that would be the day before yesterday) remember telephone answering machines? Now, those were annoying. Most people just hung up. The first time in my ministry I encountered one of these was when my tech-savvy pastor installed a landline dedicated to reciting the Mass schedule in a continuous loop. People liked it. It would ring off the hook (figuratively). 

I always had trouble making that tape recording. I wanted it to be informational but engaging. I decided to follow the example of other recordings I had heard. Big companies, after all, must be experts in this sort of thing. My recording went like this:

“Welcome. You have reached Our Lady Queen of Chaos Catholic Church. Your call is important to us. All of our priests are currently busy serving other parishioners. Please stay on the line and the first available priest will take your call in the order in which it was received. Have a nice day and thank you for calling” (Cue Gregorian chant).

Unfortunately, my first caller was a member of the diocesan Priest Personnel Board. Father Dick Chretien left me a message: “Goldrick! How many priests do you have assigned there anyway? I thought you were alone.” He was right. I changed the recording.

Then there’s that social media Facebook thing-a-ma-jig. I thought I was being groovy when I signed up. I eventually realized that the experience of being on Facebook is similar (I would imagine) to being stoned to death with popcorn. Who are all these strangers and why do I care what they had for lunch or where in the world they are vacationing? Humph! I deleted my Facebook account.

In these days of rapid technological development, dear readers, try as I might, it’s practically impossible to stay current. 

Humph!

Anchor columnist Father Tim Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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