Another View: Personal touch still matters in 21st century

And Another Thing
By: Susan Rushton
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Modern? Me? Of course. I have a cellphone. I work on a computer. But I’m also old-fashioned. After all, I read newspapers. I even write for a newspaper. Plus I read books. Books. You know, those things you hold in your hands? With all those pages that you turn just by using your fingers? I’m not alone in my reluctance to embrace everything newfangled and modern. As evidence, I offer you a photograph – yes, in a newspaper – that both confuses me and gives me hope. On Oct. 18, in response to the death of Steve Jobs, people covered the windows of the Apple Store in Palo Alto with Post-It notes, all of them expressing condolences on the loss of this visionary. And not only in Palo Alto. Photos of the identical mysterious phenomenon popped up in New York, Houston, Boston, Montreal, Japan and Hong Kong. Thousands chose to express their sorrow by writing something. With a writing implement. On a piece of paper. Do you find that amazing? I sure do. I mean, this is the 21st century. The death of the guy who introduced the iPad, the iPhone, the iPod and the iCloud (whatever that is) – and thus trained people to abandon paper and pens – resulted in people using paper. And pens. To WRITE THINGS DOWN. With their hands, you should excuse the expression. Sorry. I just can’t get over it. Why didn’t people take photos of their condolence notes on their iPads and stick those up instead? I guess they figured that when you want to say something from the heart, a screen with words in 10-point Arial just feels too impersonal. Gee. Impersonal. In 2011? Who’d have thunk it? Grady Hesters understands: “If I want to say something with significant emotional content,” he said, “I don’t feel comfortable communicating only electronically.” Especially when he’s sharing something deeply personal. “I write thank you notes all the time,” said Horti Childs. “I hand-write them. With a fountain pen.” A fountain pen, for goodness’ sake. “You want to tell people thank you,” she said. “And writing it down means something.” Jim Lawson uses a hammer that belonged to his father. “It’s at least 60 years old,” he said. Wow. Talk about old-fashioned. And when he uses it, he not only thinks of his dad “but I think of his work ethic, too. He was a very hard worker, conscientious and honest.” And Jim’s wife, Judy Gordon-Lawson, owner of Mountain Mama, visits her mother in Connecticut every couple of months. She could just get Skype, I guess, and visit her that way. In these ultra-modern times. “But I like to spend time with her,” she said. “And we play cards. Everyone enjoys the social interaction and the challenge of a good game.” I approached Cindy Ditman at the Auburn Library. In addition to getting books (books!) from the library, she and her daughters “like to do a lot of baking,” she said when I asked if she does anything she considers old-fashioned. “And we do crafts and work in the garden. And we try to make gifts when we can.” Also at the library, I met David Stryker. He sat next to a stack of audiobooks – a relatively newfangled concept. He acknowledged that even more newfangled is the possibility of downloading them and listening to them in his car, but he doesn’t have the necessary equipment. “My life doesn’t revolve around the latest and greatest available from Apple,” he said. At Depoe Bay, barista – and writer – Matt Reeves said, “I hate staring at a screen. I use a pen and paper when I write. It just flows out more that way.” So – what’s Steve Jobs doing? Spinning in his grave? He and Apple spent billions in research and development, billions on advertising and years exhorting people to Think Different. But when people need to express themselves with sincerity, they abandon the silicon chip and go for paper and pen. Astonishing. And encouraging. Susan Rushton is a columnist for the Auburn Journal. Her e-mail address is