He's making a list... and checking it on his phone.
"My name is Henry, and I'm an analog addict."
"Hi, Henry!" the crowd replies in half-hearted unison, gripping their Styrofoam coffee cups in their nicotine-stained talons. Sadly, there are no further statements expressing support or proclaiming this to be a place of safety. So I visualize them all naked and screw my courage to its sticking place.
"It's been three weeks since I wrote a list by hand onto paper, and it feels great," I lied, hoping to earn the support of these similarly defective souls. A fragile, emaciated girl with large, sympathetic eyes seemed to be the only one engaged in my cathartic moment, so I continued: "You know, they say that once you're a list-maker, you never stop, and that's the truth. When I was a kid, probably around 10 years old, my dad used to leave me a daily chore list. Although I hated doing my chores, I found the rush of crossing items off the list incredible. Of course, crossing one thing off just made me want to cross another thing off, and another, and another — until the list was all crossed off. I hit bottom."
The girl with the big bug eyes never blinked, and her lips were delivering some whispered benediction that nobody else could hear. An elderly gentleman waved a cane at me and shouted, "Amen!" Or maybe he said, "gray hen" or "cayenne" or "John Glenn." I really wasn't paying attention.
"So I started creating my own lists, and man, it was fantastic. I would grab a pencil or pen and any scrap of paper I could find and make lists. Everything got committed to paper — my favorite movies, things I needed to do that weekend, people that I wanted to send Christmas cards to. Of course, there were things like shopping lists that everybody was doing; there wasn't any harm in it, right? Just good organizational fun. Heck, even my own blessed mother wrote out shopping lists!"
The power of the group was working; I could feel it. The girl's eyes were dancing, and her right hand was twitching uncontrollably, grasping an invisible pencil. The man with the cane was thumping it on the floor, punctuating my every sentence. Even the fat guy with the Ramones T-shirt sucking down all the free donuts in the back of the room stopped to listen.
"Then, one day, I found out something incredible: People were making lists electronically." A small gasp from the donut-sucker validated my outrage. "I'm not just talking about making lists on the computer and printing them out. I mean, they were eliminating paper from the equation. Completely." I nervously licked my lips and tried not to stutter. "And it's all because of — this!"
I dug into my pocket and thrust out the glass-faced usurper of order. "This dumb ‘smart' phone harshed my Zen! You can simply get onto the Interwebs like so," I frothed, punching at the appropriate buttons, "And now my list is on the ‘Cloud'!" The big-eyed girl's orbs flicked upward in apprehension. "No, not those clouds. The ones on the dumb-phone that let you and anybody else access your list. So, for example, your wife can be putting things on the list across town while you're taking things off it. And there's no paper involved in the process at all!"
I was losing my audience, so I took a deep breath. "Look, I know it's not a big deal. In fact, having lists on the Cloud makes a lot of sense on paper." Oh, the irony. "It's convenient, I don't need to find a pencil or paper, and I already tote the phone around with me anyway. So I tried to kick the habit, cold turkey, and at first it was hard. Really hard," I said, remembering secretly writing lists down on paper when I knew nobody was watching, like a drunk with a secret flask in his desk. "But I made the commitment to clean up my act, and it's been good for me." I guess. Hell, I don't know.
Waiting for the applause that was sure to follow, I thought about how thoroughly modern I had become. It wasn't just a conversion that I had to face, but that all of mankind was involved with. I see veritable herds of modern shoppers at the local MalWart, grasping their phones and referencing their newfangled digital lists. But, just like a recovering addict, I spot the "users" in the crowd, the ones with grubby, wrinkled-paper shopping lists stuffed into their greasy pockets, and I feel that old monkey climbing up my spine again.
Wait, what happened to my applause? There was supposed to be comforting applause! Instead, the girl had yanked out an old receipt and was scribbling notes on the back (probably a list of people to annoy). The cane guy had fallen asleep or perhaps some state far more sedentary and permanent. And donut boy was licking the maple icing off a donut. Was there a chance that nobody cared about my long struggle with the ecstasy of the hand-written list?
Analog addictions do not die easily, but quixotic struggles against ubiquitous technology seldom receive applause. Point taken. I guess I didn't need a support group to figure that out after all.
Henry Lightcap checks things off in Las Cruces.