Embracing the brave old world after Typhoon Mawar
Bridgman, MI— Ten days after typhoon Mawar devastated Guam, I saw a picture of one of my educator friends there reading a book outside with children in her neighborhood. She still didn't have any electricity, water, or internet.
However, she was spreading joy in her community by doing one thing you don't need power or the internet to do - reading a book.
Then, in the following days, I saw other friends on Guam not only surviving without water, power, central air, internet, cell phone coverage, etc., but actually working through the challenges of daily life with determined, positive resiliency.
As I thought about this unusual moment of life on Guam, going days and weeks without many of the modern technologies we're now addicted to, I found myself thinking with affection, about a time in my life without smartphones, internet, and yes, even central air conditioning.
I grew up in Holly, Michigan, in an era without computers, internet or smartphones. Before we knew better, we got our news and information from good old-fashioned newspapers.
The delivery of the Detroit Free Press was a highlight of every day for me. The news of the day was headlined on page one. No one ever questioned the veracity of the excellent journalists who would report the news the way they saw it— good or bad. The sports journalists were depended on to give you the straight scoop on the Tigers and Lions. George Puscas and Joe Falls always knew how to describe the emotion of victory, and they could always be counted on to call out the ineptness and blunders of our beloved local heroes.
Today I read the Free Press online. However, scrolling across a screen with your finger is not the same as having the paper in front of you where you can feel and touch each page and smell the invigorating aroma of fresh newsprint. Give me those days before we knew better!
If I could go back in time right now, before everyone carried a smart phone in their pocket as if it were an oxygen supply, I would have lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, where I would be able to enjoy my meal without hearing anyone else's cell phone.
For a long time now, in my outside dining experiences, I’ve been wanting to be free of having to endure someone at an adjoining table playing their favorite video with their smartphone speaker on while they eat by themselves. Or, putting up with a fellow diner discussing their current problems and take on the world with their phone partner on speaker with the volume up. Before, we knew better.
Without computers or smartphones, I would have no email. I remember the days when we used to write letters, not emails. Before we knew better, business letters were written on business letterhead with respect, clarity and professionalism which is not always the norm in today's business world.
Decades ago, when I was a student at Adelphian Academy in Holly, we would develop love interests with letters written by hand and sealed in an envelope. Penmanship and the uniqueness of someone's writing style would be cherished and some letters would be kept for years. Nowadays people text emojis to express how they feel about something or someone. There are hundreds of options, all designed to save you from expressing yourself in the King's English. Before we knew better.
Back in the days before we knew better, we didn't get lonely, and we were never bored. Family get-togethers and even routine meals at home involved real genuine conversation. We knew what was going on in people’s lives without having to wade through social media posts.
In my early days as an executive, before we knew better, I recall with fondness the management forums and executive committee meetings we would conduct without participants reading their emails and sending texts during the meetings.
One of the features of modern life that I really value is central air conditioning. But as I think about it, I was just as happy with my life before I had air conditioning, as I was after I had it.
Our house on Academy Road in Holly, Michigan had two stories and my bedroom was upstairs. I remember lying in bed on warm, humid summer nights, listening to Detroit Tiger baseball games on my portable radio without earphones. My focus was on the baseball games, not the heat and humidity, and the wonderful fresh air breeze kept me content.
When we lived in Holly, more than 50 years ago, I still remember our black telephone. Before we knew better, no one with a phone could block your call and when you received a call, you never knew the caller until you picked up the phone and had a conversation with them. Now that we know better, we're afraid of answering our phones if we don't recognize the number that's calling because someone with nefarious motives might use our voice against us.
Our phones today help us find places with GPS. However, I loved the days when you had an actual map you could put your hands and fingers on, and never have to worry about its accuracy. Most smartphones today tell our friends and social media where we are. But I think fondly of the days before everyone knew where I was, before we knew better.
Before the Mawar experience is forgotten, however, tonight before going to bed, I’m going to turn off my cell phone. Next, I'll turn off the central air, open the windows and let the cool breeze from Lake Michigan flow through our apartment.
Then, I'm going to bed and dream about the days before we knew better.
Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business in Bridgman, MI. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.