My conscience, or whatever passes for that name, felt as the twinge of discontent with one’s achievements and time management, lack of, and the thought that good, innocent and trusting people have actually signed up to follow this blog, has brought me back like the prodigal sheep.
If you only knew how hard it was to get here. It’s been so long I almost forgot the way. What was my password? What was my username (I wrote it down somewhere. Amazing, I found it.) Now how the blazes do I write a post? No, wait, something is pending, awaiting approval. Aw, gee, sorry about that, solitary, pensive poster. How to approve it? I click on Approve and it still says Pending. I approve it again. I don’t think I understand it all, but it’s welcome anyway. And still pending.
Do I really need to resort to the instructions, trawl through the tutorial, yet again? Yep. But not just now. I’ve got this far, and I must not allow myself to be distracted. This is a whole new year. No, this is a new year. (I’m an editor, and that’s one word too many.) I hope it will be a whole year. Statistics and the raised retirement age hint that the ATO will most likely extract another year of tax from me, but the days — nay, years — are zooming by like the 4-minute mile of my youth. Not MY youth, Roger Bannister’s youth, but by now it must be near the instant mile. Anyway, that’s one new year resolution busted already: I have allowed myself to be distracted.
They used to call distraction multitasking. Do you remember when computer connections had a flat blue (or maybe beige) corduroy plastic cable with lots of pins at the end? Those parallel ports allowed one-way information from your hard drive to your printer, scanner or Zip drive. It did stuff one at a time and you watched intently for the result. (It wasn’t always what you expected, I have to say, which is why you watched intently.)
Then someone invented the serial port with just three triangular prongs, and that’s where computer multitasking started. Serial ports allowed two-way information so things could talk back to you and tell you why they weren’t working. Not that you could fix it, but it was like the difference between a telegram and a tweet. (Ha, most of you young things wouldn’t even know what a telegram was — that ticker-typed message stuck line by line on yellow paper, delivered to your door in a small envelope by a lad on a red bicycle. Each word cost so much that telegrammese was an oft-used example for subeditors pruning impecunious reporters’ verbosity.)
The telegram used to come one at a time, except to newly-weds, whose best man at the wedding reception would read out the cheeky messages to the groom and blushing bride. No answer, at least by telegram, was expected.
While Twitter offers the same character-building practice of character-culling, (or practise if you’re in the USA) it offers no respite from the two-way trip. I decide to type a tweet, and suddenly there’s a cacophony of communication demanding my attention, all of it an onslaught of instant distraction. But after all, I follow them, and the kind ones follow me.
So I click away on their URLs, savour the wit and rude ripostes, note the outrage, books and bullshit, check the spelling, truth and fun. By the time I’ve scanned the latest tweets, with half an ear on the radio and an eye on the clock, I’m neuronally exhausted and it’s time to get to work. Just do a couple of worthy retweets to ease my conscience, and tomorrow I’ll do my blog.