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Femaelstrom

Late at night I turn on my computer, and nearly jump out of my skin, when from it issues an inchoate babble of voices. Something is wrong. I envision repairs, panic over obligations. The next night, I turn it on again, cautiously, and it yells, “Yeeee-haw!”During the day, I open my cell phone and the panel lights up with, “Hello, y’ole gal.” Then the phone starts making monkey noises.My children and their friends were born to technology. In fact, they can’t seem to keep their hands off it.While I found it a chore to have to learn how to use a new cell phone, my sons snatched it up. They tipped it and turned it, and used the camera, and one day one of them said, “Hey, I never noticed – this has sequencing!””Roy,” he asked the other, “do you know how to tint the frame?”To them, it’s fun.Every time I open the phone, it contains a different photo. The current one is, somewhat unfortunately, of an upside-down boy with his tongue out.One day I was driving with coworkers home from a trade show, when a strange percussive sound emanated, apparently from Quent’s car radio. Quent finally looked at me oddly and politely said, “Alison, your phone’s ringing.””What?” I had never heard that sound in my life. My phone had a different ring. I thought.I arrived home and asked Teddy, then 11, what had happened to my ringtone. “Oh, yeah,” he remembered, ducking his head. “I made you a new one. I composed it!”But what did I expect? These are the boys who’ve played Playstation since kindergarten. When rental movies switched to DVD format, they plunked the DVDs into their Playstation2. Teddy showed me how to play the films on it, and then time passed and I forgot what opening command to use (or, rather, not use). When the machine demanded System Configuration and then a Memory Card, I had to get him up out of bed to help. I reached a new low point the night I had to roust him from bed to show me how to get around the “parental advisory” block so I could see an R-rated film.Much as I love movies, weeks and months can pass between viewings, and one summer day I got stuck again. Teddy was away. But his then 8-year-old brother, Roy, put a kind hand on my shoulder, saying, “I’ll set you up, Mom.” At 9, he was less nice about it, snickering when I absent-mindedly asked, proffering the Playstation handset, how again to turn the movie off. A hand covering his laugh, he muttered to himself, “She thinks you shut it off with the handset.”I didn’t tell Roy about the time my mother phoned when I was watching a movie, and in agitation I hit buttons too fast, and the movie began playing in French.One evening when our home phone rang, ridiculous tones – a schmaltzy Christmas carol – pealed out. I told Teddy to change it back, and he switched to Chopin. But he meddled with the downstairs phone as well, and now, a beat after Chopin begins, the “Star-spangled Banner,” the uneven tones of which I have never even liked, chime in.Teddy baby-sat at a friend’s house, and a week later the mother called me.”Could you tell Teddy next time he baby-sits to change the phone back? Every time it rings I keep thinking it’s some toy in the house going off.” But on the next visit he forgot, and their son Tyler called us and was talked through changing the home phone back. Tyler was 7. There was one glitch, though. At first Tyler turned the ringer off.It’s late again. I turn on my computer for a quiet hour’s work. It revs, at full volume, like a motorcycle.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at aosius@hotmail.com.


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