Cups, String, and Dinosaurs


When Twin Brother Mark pulled the string tight and talked, I was blown away. With the can cupped to my ear, I heard everything he said. It didn’t matter the span was only 20 feet between us and I could’ve heard him perfectly without the use of our new communication device. For us kids at the time, a soup can and string was the cutting edge of technology.

It has been said that animals that don’t evolve will eventually become extinct. Dinosaurs are a good example. The mighty beasts that once thundered around the earth were at the top of the food chain, but something happened. Some scientists say the reason was a giant meteor crashed into the earth, blotting out the sun. The big creatures couldn’t adapt to the rapid drop of temperatures and ensuing snowstorms. Others believe the dinosaurs simply ran out of food.

Me? I just think they all were trampled to death. When it started to snow, there was a mass stampede to find the closest grocery store to get milk and bread. They all piled up in the parking lot and died.

A cup, a string – I was happy with that system. It was something everyone could understand and afford. We didn’t need instructions printed in mice type and four different languages in order to know how things worked. Then again, Goofy Steve could have used some better instructions. He thought a full can of soup would work better than an empty can. After punching holes in the tomato soup can, he looked bloodier than he did after the Great Dirt Clod War of ‘69.

Long ago we moved away from 110 Flamingo Street leaving our tin cans and strings behind. It has been a struggle trying to keep up with the communication technology ever since. There seems to be no end in sight to the innovations.

Like many older folks, I’ve tried to ride the crest of the new wave of gadgets. Unfortunately last week the wave I was riding crashed headlong into rocks. The Wife and I got new cell phones.

She has no trouble understanding the 150 different features of the one she got. I’m a lost ball in high weeds.

Fortunately, pulling me out of the wilderness was simple. I’ve learned early on in my adult life that I don’t have to be an expert at everything. I just have to know the person who is.

To decipher the 150 different features on my phone, I called The Boy. He spent two years working at the big blue electronics store and knows a bunch about all that new fancy stuff. To be honest, I asked The Wife to call him. I still couldn’t even find the power button.

The Boy spent the better part of a day trying to explain all the features of my new phone. The device had three gigs of storage capacity. I can text and surf the Web at the same time. I can take pictures, movies, and notes. I even have a choice of over 1,000 ringtones.

To summarize: I held in my hand the latest and greatest communication device ever developed by mankind, a device that connected me to the world, and all for only $99 a month. Some innovation. The explanation of how to use Mark’s can and string took less than a minute. He had no monthly fees.

I smiled and said, “I just want a phone to sound like a phone.” The Boy shrugged, changed my ring tone to actually ring like a phone and walked off. I think I heard him mumble something about a dinosaur. I couldn’t have been happier and immediately called the Wife. I got her voice mail.

As with the tin cans and string from so long ago, all I want to do with my new phone is have the ability to talk to the person on the other end. I don’t care if it has the ability to snap pictures, surf the Web or take notes. That’s why cameras, computers, paper and pencils were invented.

When the Wife got home that night, I told her I didn’t like my new phone. I longed for times gone by. She got up, got a blanket, and wrapped it around me. “It looks like snow. Here you go, dinosaur. This will keep you warm.”