WACHS: Challenge is to keep local community while going global


A few days ago I inadvertently misplaced (not the same thing as “lost”) a pocket leather-bound notebook/wallet gizmo I typically carry. In it is usually a few dollars, a calendar, assorted notes on people I want to see or a list of groceries (loaf of milk, gallon of bread, peanut butter) I need to buy, some pictures of the world’s greatest grandchildren and various other important pieces of stuff.

When I’m wearing a sport coat, suit jacket, windbreaker or other outer garment, it’s not all that hard keeping up with it since it lives in an inside pocket of those garments. It’s when I’m not wearing such, like now when it’s warm weather, that I lose much of my mind wondering where it is and how it got there.

Some folks, usually the thirty- and forty-something crowd whose members were born technologically superior to us dinosaurs, tell me I should trash the bulky accessory and get myself a slim trim (to match my physique) blackberry, smart phone, tablet or some other gadget to carry on my belt. On something no bigger than a Rook card, they say, I can keep up with all my life and it’s so small I won’t lose it.

To me, that thinking flies in the face of logic, mainly because little things are what we mostly lose. For instance, you ever heard of anyone misplacing their elephant?

Anyway, me getting one of those gadgets is pretty much an impossibility for several reasons. First, “blackberry” is something my daddy and I picked with Roland Farrell when I was a lad. Then we took them home to Mama, at least the ones I hadn’t eaten in the name of quality control, and she’d make blackberry jelly or cobblers, which is a dish to be eaten warm out of the oven topped with large amounts of vanilla ice cream.

I don’t think you can do that with an electronic do-dad. The days Dick Tracy only dreamed of are here. Did you really think the two-way wristwatch radio wouldn’t come about?

And tablets? That’s what you take two of and call the doctor in the morning… if you can get through all the phone prompts and “your call is very important to us so stay on the line for a day and a half and we’ll get to you… maybe.”

While all those gadgets are, I guess, nice for keeping up with all we have to do, where we have to go and with whom we have to do it, it strikes me sometimes we’ve become prisoners of ourselves and our lifestyles.

My grandparents went all their lives without such. I don’t think they ever owned a TV, which means they never got to see Larry King, hear about his umpteenth wife or soak in CNN. They did have a radio. Grandpa thought it was a hoot that he had a big ol’ cabinet model with vacuum tubes in back. After he got the thing tuned in through the static to Fibber McGee and Molly or his favorite – The Lone Ranger – he’d jerk the knob off so nobody could change the dial.

Today, some of the younger generation find it almost impossible to believe when I was their age, I had to get up from my seat and walk across the room to change the channel to one of only – two in Greensboro, which we didn’t get too clearly in east Pittsboro, five in Raleigh and 11 in Durham. There was also Channel 4, but it was mostly school lessons, not yet having moved to broadcasting Doo-Wop concerts, country music documentaries and assorted old rock and roll celebrations.

These days I’m wondering exactly why is “bigger” better? Who says we must have this gadget or that? Why do we really need to know what the Stock Market is doing at the exact moment? Why do I need or even want to know what Sheik Ali Fuzzy is thinking?

I know… I know… we’re all part of the global community and what happens on the other side of the world or down the street can and often does trickle down or back to us all. And I know not everyone agrees with me. There are lots and lots of folks who love to run wide open all the time and can’t have enough gadgets and such and things to do and places to go to save their souls.

I just don’t think I’m one of them. To quote my boyhood friend and adviser on matters from the heart to the pocketbook Bobby Joe High, “The hurryer I go the behinder I get.”

Lest you think I have mastered this art of throwing off some of the technological trappings of our lifestyle for a more simple existence, let me assure you I haven’t.


Once I accidentally left my cell phone on the bed one Sunday as we went off to church and I may not have heard my sermon trying to remember if I’d lost it.

But I’m trying… trying to do only what’s necessary, sit on the screened-in back porch, listen to the birds, appreciate the sunset’s beauty before the glare of neon hides it, savor the good folks we meet along the way who make life better.

I think it’s in the trying that we find the quality of life.

Not sure electronics can provide that.

Bob Wachs is a native of Chatham County and emeritus editor at Chatham News & Record. He serves as pastor of Bear Creek Baptist Church.