“I only just learned how to send an email, like, two weeks ago.” She looks flabbergastedly proud.
I’m talking to Leslie. Leslie works at a place I used to work, at a place that I worked for three years throughout high school. Leslie works at the flower shop. I’ve gone back to the flower shop (at which I spent three formative years of my life) to buy tomato plants, because apparently in New England, this is the weekend when you put tomato plants in the ground.
This is Memorial Day weekend.
Leslie is probably in her late fifties, early sixties, but she looks exactly the same as she did when I was 15. Her hair is still gray and curly. The gap in her front teeth (more prominent than mine by a mile) hasn’t gone anywhere. Her skin barely shows a wrinkle. She still talks over you the whole time you’re conversing. Leslie is a person who, while I worked there, I despised for her pettiness and her haughtiness. She hasn’t changed much in that regard, either.
So we’re talking about the “Information Highway,” and I’m nodding along, because I don’t really care.
“What I like to do is sit back with coffee or a glass of wine and read the newspaper. In Print!” she snorts. We’re talking, more specifically, about the decline of the publishing industry as print gives way to online news content. I agree with her–“I like to read the newspaper in print, too, Leslie”–but her insistence on the virtues of remaining a Luddite don’t ring true.
She says, for example, that her favorite New York Times columnist is Tom Friedman.
I interrupt, “I hate that mother–”
“Oh really? Why is that?”
“–fucker. I mean, first of all he was an Iraq–”
“Well, yes, but he–”
“–War hawk from the get-go,” I finish as she interrupts.
“But he was the guy who said, ‘Hey, look, if we’re going to start a war in Iraq we need to finish the job,'” she counters.
I don’t mention the Friedman Unit, or the “Suck on this” incident, because really, why bother? Okay, Leslie, you like Tom Friedman, you work at a flower shop, and you don’t know how to use the Internet. Great.
She also likes David Brooks. He’s “reasonable” and “articulate.”
I don’t bother to enumerate the sins of David Brooks for her, either. I don’t need to. I would tell her to Google “Sadly, No Bobo,” but she doesn’t know how to use Teh Google. I would tell her that there are vastly better ‘conservative’ writers out there–I do, in fact, mention Andrew Sullivan–but she probably won’t bother. For Leslie, her ilk, too many of her generation, the Internet is a game played beyond the scope of Reality. It’s Virtual Reality. It doesn’t merit the same erudition and sophistication that Reality does, and it is instead ignored, belittled, and wished away by Real People. We, you and I, the people who read blogs, and send email, and push mouse buttons to hyperlinks that take us half-way around the world? We are faking it.
I find some tomato plants when Leslie has to tend to a customer. They’re all generic GM starts. I pick up three flats, pay, and drive home.
Nothing is accomplished. Usually, nothing needs to be.