Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rabbit Ears in a High-Tech World

The other day I was at lunch with some business associates. Since the topic of commercial rooftop air conditioning equipment is so breathtakingly scintillating, we decided to change the subject for a while to avoid getting emotionally overwhelmed. So we started talking about the telecommunication providers at our respective homes.

You’re probably familiar with some of these companies: “Hey-hey and Flee,” “Crox,” “Bombast,” Squish-TV,” “Floptimum,” “Hex-finity,” and the new folks in our state, “Runt-deer.” (Or at least that’s what the company names sound like. If I use their real names, I’m afraid I’ll either get sued, or my service provider will secretly alter my Internet connection so the only website I’ll be able to access is, which of course, will require me to jump off a bridge.)

Our discussion was like a poker game, with each guy taking his turn to raise the ante. “Oh yeah?” one guy said. “Bombast charges me $240 per month, and the download speed is so slow my daughter thinks the name of our favorite Netflix show is ‘Buffering’.”

“That’s nothing,” the next guy offered. “We’re now over $300 per month with Hey-hey and Flee, and that doesn’t include the extra charges if we exceed our monthly data plan. And my wife’s new iPhone 6 seems to gobble up giga-bites like Orson Welles at a Sunday brunch buffet.”

Most of the guys at the table looked at each other and shrugged in confusion. After an awkward pause, I said, “Whoa, an Orson Welles joke? Not bad. But you realize everybody here, besides you and me, are only in their 30s and early 40s, so they have no clue what you’re talking about.”

The guy replied, “I always thought that line was funny, ever since I was a kid and heard Charlie Callas say it at a Dean Martin roast.”

Now the other guys really looked confused. “Charlie Callas? Dean Martin?”

I leaned toward the fellow and subtly whispered, “You’d better stick to references from this century, or these other guys will forcibly put us in a nursing home.”

One of the other men at the table turned to me and said, “So Bill, what’s your horror story? How bad is your Internet and cable company gouging you?”

I replied, “Pretty bad, but we don’t have cable.”

The guy said, “Oh, so you watch TV on the Internet, with Netflix or Hulu?”

I said, “Well, actually, our Internet speed with Runt-deer is so slow, we can’t do that.” And then, in a moment of complete stupidity, I kept talking and said, “But we get a few local channels with our rabbit ears antenna.”

Oh no, did I actually utter the phrase “rabbit ears” in front of a bunch of tech-savvy young men? If you think mentioning Orson Welles or Charlie Callas will cause people to think you’re old, you ain’t seen nothing until you say the words “rabbit ears.”

Everyone at the table stared at me in disbelief. Finally, one guy asked very slowly and nervously, “Do you churn your own butter?”

I quickly tried to explain that disconnecting the cable years ago was something we did when our kids were young, and as a result they developed skills quite rare here in the 21st century, such as the ability to read books and speak in complete sentences. 

However, the guys were having none of it. We finished our lunch in uncomfortable silence. On the bright side, the nursing home they forcibly checked me into is rather nice. And I hear that later today Charlie Callas and Dean Martin are coming here to visit. I don’t know yet if Orson Welles is available to join them.

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