by Catherine Breese
Since I’ve got fifty-year old eyes and fifty year old fingers and thumbs, I find the talk-to-text feature of my iPhone to be extremely useful. I click the little picture of a microphone and say the words, “Awesome pic exclamation point.” My phone then types these words into my text message punctuating them correctly. And no matter how IRONIC every stand-up comedian thinks it is to talk into a phone for the purposes of sending a written message, as opposed to say, using the phone to make a phone call in which you say the same words directly into the recipient’s ear, I still enjoy the feature and rely on it regularly. In fact, I use Siri and Google Girl pretty darn often. Here are the last five things I spoke into my phone’s two audible search features: 1 “What is the kickoff time for today’s Virginia Tech football game?” 2 “Beer cheese fondue recipe” 3 “Set timer for 20 minutes” 4 “Is Facebook Messenger really evil?” and 5 “Tom Petty’s new record.” Yes, I said record. Nonetheless, the results were immediate and correct.
Yes, the 21st century does not include the jet packs, flying cars, and a manned mission to Mars that I thought it would when I was a kid, but it does have some fairly clever conveniences. And then again, I have noticed lately that many of the tools and machines invented in the 19th and 20th century haven’t changed all that much. Many have added digital chip technology, but some are just as they were, mechanical and electric, and working just fine. The chain saw, the cork screw, the refrigerator (not counting the new enviro-friendly coolant), the vacuum cleaner (don’t even say the word Dyson—still works on the principle of creating a vacuum), the electric hair dryer, the sewing machine, etc.
Here is a picture of my sewing machine. It was built by Singer in 1953. I got it out of the suitcase in which it lives, plugged it in, and sewed something yesterday. My mother originally owned this machine. She gave it to my sister many, many years ago, and my sister handed it up to me.
Let the record show that I do not enjoy sewing. I do not sew often…maybe once every seven years or so. I am in no way crafty. In fact, my personal hell involves a trip to Michael’s or Joann Fabric and the word “coupon”. However, necessity inspired a bout of sewing. We are walking in a race during the Highlander festival next month and we need some faux kilts. What else?
I learned to use a sewing machine when I was a twelve. At the time, threading the machine seemed so hard to learn, but I can still do it easily, as though it has burrowed so deeply in my long-term memory that I am sure I will be able to do it even when I can no longer remember how to wipe my face with a napkin. I refuse to lament the fact that today’s kids cannot do this. They can do a lot of things we couldn’t. (Hey, who needs to cook a meal on a stove, change a tire, do simple math in your head, write in cursive, or sew a faux kilt?)
The fact that a machine built 61 years ago not only works but works well, well, heck, that’s just amazing. I work with computers all day in my real-life job. They are all new by comparison. One that is ready to be put out to pasture is about seven years old. My Singer sewing machine has kicked the ass of every machine that I put my hands on all day long.
Look, I’m not bragging. It’s not like I wove the fabric and dyed it myself, but it is pretty surprising when old things work. Aren’t we all surprised when an antique car rolls into the gas station next to us? Maybe we shouldn’t be. That is NOT nostalgia. It is just me saying that sometimes something that is old still works.