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Unplugged

My husband got his first computer, an Apple II, in sixth grade, around the same time that I was composing Jim Morrison-inspired free verse on my vintage Royal typewriter. When we met in college, I was writing papers longhand on yellow legal pads and then typing them up on my Brother (electric!) typewriter. Lindsay had a Macintosh SE, and showed me how to use it. Suddenly, I understood why other students seemed to have so much time for binge drinking.

I have many reasons to be grateful to Lindsay; the way he freed up my evenings for Jell-O shots is only one of them. Being married to the consummate early adopter — the first person anyone knew to have the internet (CompuServe), an iPod, a digital camera, TiVo, a Sonicare toothbrush — means that I’ve been able to reap the rewards of these technological innovations. Even our cat, who drinks out of a kitty water fountain and eats out of a timed feeder, has benefited. Of course, if Lindsay had his way, the cat would be relieving himself in a CatGenie Self-Washing Cat Box, a remarkable invention he’d read about in the Wall Street Journal years before feline bidets became commonplace in Skymall. He hung on to that newspaper clipping till it yellowed and crumbled, along with his hopes that anyone was going to give him a $350 litter box for Christmas.

I’m no Luddite, really. I have an iPhone! Which Lindsay gave me, and I know how to use, sort of. But this is how I feel about gadgets: A few of them will change your life — my Nespresso espresso machine springs to mind — but the majority were invented for the sole purpose of being given to men who don’t need anything but must get something because it’s their birthday/Christmas/Father’s Day. This explains the existence of the Skymalls, Brookstones, Frontgates, and the (now defunct) Sharper Images. It also explains ties and novelty boxer shorts.

Lindsay was never a Sharper Image guy. He doesn’t have a life-size animatronic Predator in his man-cave. His embrace of technology has mostly been about improving the quality of our lives. But sometimes he’s let his enthusiasm for new ideas cloud his judgment. Like when he read about the WhyCry Baby Crying Analyzer in the New York Times. The WhyCry resembles a tricorder from Star Trek: Point the device at an alien life form, and its mysteries will be revealed. Point the WhyCry at a squalling infant, and you will learn the root of her discomfort. Since it wasn’t available in the States back in 2003, Lindsay tracked down its inventor in Spain and special-ordered one in time for the birth of our first daughter. Perhaps she was just too enigmatic a child for the thing to be effective, but when our second daughter arrived a few years later, nobody bothered retrieving the WhyCry from deep storage. Still, I can’t deny Lindsay’s prescience. I hear the WhyCry is now a popular item on baby registries; you can get it from Amazon for a mere $99.99.

House cleaning is another area where Lindsay’s zeal for gadgetry has run amok. Naturally, I’m referring to our Riccar HEPA canister vacuum (which replaced a bagless Dyson as well as two traditional upright models), Hoover Floormate SpinScrub Hard Floor Cleaner, three steam cleaners of varying sizes, carpet sweeper, two kinds of Dirt Devils and, of course, our Roomba, the robotic vacuum that terrorizes pets and small children. You’d think with so much firepower at our disposal you’d be able to eat off our floors, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’ve acquired a taste for dust bunnies.

See, the majority of our cleaning arsenal is languishing in the garage, because I’m partial to old-school implements like dustpans, sponges, rags, and vacuums that don’t have a lot of buttons. I also refuse to try any of Lindsay’s gadgets until the clutter has been culled and contained — preferably in some cute baskets from the Container Store. How can you electric-mop your floors when they’re littered with shoes and toys? Or steam-clean the bathtub when it’s full of dirty laundry and rubber ducks?

That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking with it. We’re at a stalemate, which is a predictable, comfortable enough place to be after 20 years of couple-dom. I appreciate that he’s a creature of the Enlightenment — a passionate believer in the primacy of reason and the unlimited potential of human intelligence — but he married a Neolithic girl, who really needs him to change the ring tone on her iPhone, like, now.


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