“So let me get this straight,” Samuel Rothwall said, interrupting the twenty-something year old wonderkid with the lime green mohawk. “You’re saying that young people prefer electronic mail for urgent correspondence?”
Bonzai, the assistant manager of the Verizon Wireless store, openly gawked at the old coot in front of him that fit somewhere between Steggosaurus and Woody Guthrie in the fossil record. He could practically smell the mothballs beneath the Barbasol.
“Exactly,” Bonzai replied. “Of course, if it’s really a matter of life or death, we use the pony express or carrier pigeons.”
“Oh, a wiseguy,” Samuel retorted, pointing at his younger counterpart with a shaky wooden cane. “You know, back in my day, we had a name for guys with tattoos on their necks.”
“What’s that,” Bonzai invited, smirking as he rubbed the two-dimensional spiderweb crawling out of his white polo shirt. The small garment was tent-like on his skeletal frame.
“Unemployed,” Samuel finished.
“Whatever, pops,” Bonzai rebutted. “You’re the one who came in here asking for my help, remember?”
“And my date to the junior prom wore those very earrings,” Samuel jabbed, unwilling to let the pissant claim the high ground.
“Thanks for coming in today,” Bonzai replied. “Come on back anytime you’re ready to trade in that Betamax you call a phone.”
The insufferable twit strutted back behind the counter, exchanging fist bumps with a pasty-faced teen who watched the exchange. The pair didn’t weigh two bills between them. Despite himself, Samuel was moderately impressed that either twerp was even aware there had been life before Blu-ray, let alone VHS.
“Alright, alright,” Samuel sighed, his eyes darting back and forth between the obsolete brick in his hand and the sleek new smartphones in the display case. “My granddaughter says I need one of these gizmos so I can watch her piano recitals wherever I go.”
“‘I’m sorry,” Bonzai replied, tilting his head and cupping a hand to his well-perforated ear. “What was that?”
Samuel gritted his teeth.
“I need your help,” he admitted.
“I said I need your help,” Samuel repeated, louder. “Happy?”
“As a clam,” Bonzai affirmed, sauntering back around the counter with his sunken chest puffed to its fullest. “So where were we?”
“You were telling me when to text, when to email and when to call.”
“You never call,” Bonzai snickered. “You don’t buy a rocket ship to drive it to Sears. Calling requires conversation. The entire point of all this technology is to streamline communication, get your point across without sitting through twenty minutes of bullshit.”
“So if I don’t call, do I text,” Samuel asked, perplexed.
“Or Facebook or Tweet,” Bonzai agreed.
“That’s what it’s called when you say something on Twitter,” Bonzai condescended.
“What the hell is Twitter?
“Oh come on,” Bonzai moaned, exasperated. “You’re pulling my leg, right?”
Samuel just stared at the preening peacock, imagining what it would feel like to wrap his arthritic fingers around that scrawny neck and squeeeeeeeeeeze.
Bonzai sighed, shaking his ridiculous head ever so slightly.
“Twitter is a real time social medium that allows users to interact directly with people across the globe,” Bonzai recited, boredom lacing his uninflected voice.
“Like a telephone?”
“Yes, wait, no,” Bonzai answered. “A regular old phone is limited to the person you’re talking to on the other end. With Twitter, you can interact with anyone online by sending them an ‘at’ response or a direct message.”
“Like an email?”
“Yes, wait, no,” Bonzai repeated. “Look, you’re making this harder than it is–”
Samuel waved him off.
“No, you kids are the ones making things more difficult,” he chastised the human Otter Pop. “You could be curing prostate cancer with all this technology, but you’d rather use it to play Pacman on your telephones.”
“Pacman,” Bonzai exclaimed, his shrill burst of hyena-like laughter quickly degenerating into a coughing fit. “OMG, my dad loves that game!”
Samuel turned to leave.
“Hey, where ya going, pops,” Bonzai demanded, his voice strained. “I want to hear all about the phonograph!”
“We give you color television and you reinvent the telephone,” Samuel muttered to himself as he approached the glass front door.
He turned when he reached it, his fingers on the handle. Bonzai’s angular head was buried in his mobile device.
“Now I know why you don’t like talking to each other,” he announced.
Bonzai looked up, waiting.
“Because there ain’t a one of you got a damn thing to say worth hearing,” Samuel finished, wrenching open the door. “All the world’s wisdom at your finger tips, but not a lick of sense to go with it.”
The fifty four year old limped into the daylight, leaning on the cane he had relied upon since being broadsided by a texting driver the year before. The door rattled shut behind him.
“Tag me in that,” Bonzai instructed his co-worker, knowing he had surreptitiously photographed the exchange. “Going to submit it to National Geographic.”
The pair shared a brief chuckle before returning to their phones, casting the room in silence.