The Old Men and the Smart Phone

The coffee shop isn’t really a coffee shop so much as it is a tiny bakery with tables. A family takes up the bulk of the private table, and I don’t catch the two-seater by the window until we leave. This leaves the tall table/bar style gathering place in the center, where three old men in baseball caps sit sharing the trivia of their lives. The conversation is dotted with crops, pick-up truck maintenance and furniture one had gotten his son to move for him. Old man stuff.

I gather my doughnuts and coffee, and hop up on a chair at the central table, leaving room for Mike to join me once he finishes deliberating over his doughnuts.

The man on the end begins: “What’s it going to be? Taliesin? APC?”

“Oh, we did the theater last night.”

He pauses. For some reason, he wasn’t expecting that answer. “Yeah? You like Shakespeare?”

I am unclear if this is because he doesn’t like Shakespeare, or because he can’t fathom someone my age liking Shakespeare. “Oh, I like Shakespeare just fine, but this wasn’t Shakespeare.”

My response confuses him. He finally concludes that “Like them or not, it’s important for every Spring Green resident to support the APC by going at least once a year.”

Times are tough, and farmers are changing. Theater isn’t a foofy waste of time when it brings in income. Even if Shakespeare seems silly to you.

He then asks me about the mosquitoes. “I bet you were getting eaten alive!” We weren’t, at least I wasn’t. I casually mention this is my third trip to Spring Green, and he loses interest. Apparently he only teases tourists he sees once.

My laptop has a “Keep Portland Weird” sticker. The owner asks me if we’re from there. I explain I bought it on a visit, and that we’re from the Twin Cities. Something in how Mike and I are evaluated shift,s and we’re both less interesting and more solid.

I fall quiet. I listen to the laborious explanation of how to buy travel post cards on Ebay. Sniping has not reached the awareness of these men yet, and at one point I realize that the wireless in Spring Green is terrible most likely because, with the age group living there, it’s not necessary. They start talking cell phones.

The shorter man beside me asks me about mine. I am tethering, TRYING to get wireless just so I can tend to some fending off of spammers on one of my public outlets. I explain tethering , which I can tell he doesn’t really understand. The owner looks to my phone, and I can see he has some opinion about it he keeps to himself. The man that asks me about my phone  recommends I go to the Shed, a tiny bar across the street, memorable to me for the reaction of every person in the bar when I walked in with a non-white woman beside me in 2002.  He then mutters something about my phone, but I can’t tell if he’s calling it “fancy” or calling me “lazy.” He says something about his son’s phone.

I can tell he feels lost.

I think about explaining it, but I’m trying to learn not to. Most people don’t want to be educated until they ask to be, especially old white men from farm towns that feel disconnected by their sons’ technology. Besides, I just heard their attempt at sorting out Ebay. Monkeys with an obelisk.

I leave it alone.