By Hannah Reich Berman
In high school, a few of my close friends participated in glee club, so I decided to try out. Anyone who has ever heard me sing will understand why I was rejected. Crushed (but not surprised) by the rejection, I did the only thing I could think of–I begged the choral director to accept me! And it worked. Because she took pity on me, I was allowed to join, but only after she extracted a promise that I would not utter a sound. I had to agree never to do anything more than smile and move my lips. Hubby occasionally wished he could have gotten me to make the same promise to him.
In addition to being unable to sing, I am also not rich. Nor am I famous. In short, it would appear that I have absolutely nothing in common with the late Frank Sinatra. But in fact I do: As in the song associated with the late singer, I do things my way.
Like so many others in the civilized world, I now have an iPhone. While having this instrument makes me an owner, it does not qualify me as a user, at least not a typical user. People who have iPhones use them as a substitute for a pen and a piece of paper. Using the phone’s touch screen, the more sophisticated souls among us (a group of which I am not a part) leave messages for themselves by using the instrument to electronically draft a memo. I cannot do that. Despite having been repeatedly taught, I remain clueless. But pride is important, so I made up my mind that I will never again ask anyone to show me how to do it. My mantra has always been “three strikes and you’re out!” And three strikes it has been, so I now willingly face the fact that I have struck out.
For starters, I can’t remember step one. I still don’t know what I have to press to leave a message. But there is more to the problem because, even if I could remember how to leave a message, I do not remember how to retrieve it. And if that weren’t enough to deter me from making use of this feature, there is a third problem to contend with. This problem has nothing to do with technology or understanding how to make use of the phone. It is a more universal one–I have a “senior memory.” And it means that I probably would not remember that I had left a message in the first place, so I would never look for it.
In short, this feature is not for me. Any message I might be able to leave would end up lost in cyberspace or some such thing. (My memory may be poor, but I still have a modicum of common sense, and that common sense tells me that unless one knows the meaning of a word, it is unwise to use that word, but I just made an exception. I do not entirely comprehend the meaning of the word cyberspace, but I used it anyhow because it sounds impressive.)
Due to my limitations in usage of my iPhone, when I need to leave a reminder for myself, I do it my way. I have a formula. I don’t hunt for a pen or a piece of paper to scribble a reminder. There is more sophistication to my method. I use my cell phone to call my house phone and leave a voice message for myself. It works like a charm. There is nothing to remember, because when I get home, I always check my answering machine, and the blinking light tells me that there is a message. If the reminder I have left for myself is for something that must be done at a later time or date, I go the old-fashioned route: then, and only then, I write it on a piece of paper and place it under a magnet on my refrigerator door.
The only downside to my method of using my cell phone to call my house phone is that my friends laugh. It would not be an issue if I could surround myself with friends who are as incompetent as I am in iPhone usage, but there are not too many of those souls left. The result is that when I lunch with friends, and they overhear me leaving a message for myself, they chuckle. But the method works for me, and that’s what counts.
And, speaking of laughter–or ridicule, which is what it really is–it is not a one-way street. These same friends occasionally provide me with the opportunity to laugh at them. It happens when we go out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Suddenly they’re using chopsticks. In my wildest dreams I would not think of eating with two skinny-looking sticks, and I don’t conceal my amusement when they do it. A fork is my utensil of choice; and sometimes, when I reach the bottom of a bowl of rice, if I am hungry enough to want to consume every last grain of rice, I have been known to put the fork down and substitute a spoon.
What exactly is the point of this chopsticks thing? My guess is that some people are imitating what they see on television when people dig into square white containers with chopsticks. Another thought is that people use chopsticks because it takes a certain degree of skill to keep the food from slipping off the stick, which forces them to eat more slowly and thereby eat less. If a person is dieting, why not just skip the rice altogether, order grilled chicken and salad, and eat with a fork like a normal American? I say, skip the shtick with the sticks!
Sticks are good for some things. But eating isn’t one of them. A stick might come in handy for a youngster at the beach who, if he lost his shovel, can use sticks to dig holes in the sand. Sticks are also a good thing to place into potting soil to help a plant remain upright so that it will grow tall and straight. Clearly, there are any number of practical uses for sticks, both large and small, but eating is not one of them. Using chopsticks at mealtime is fine if one happens to be Chinese. But my people came from Europe–so a knife, fork, and spoon are my go-to utensils. I do it my way.
So while my friends may get a chuckle because I still do not use my iPhone as it was meant to be used, I get to chuckle when I see them struggling to eat with chopsticks. I do it my way, and that’s the way it is! v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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