Mrs. B didn’t own a computer. She had a cell phone for three months but never used it. She told her daughter to take it back. She had time to take long walks at the park, read, do crafts, and go to lunch with friends. She attended live lectures, went to the library, enjoyed museums, picnics, and face-to-face conversations with squirmy children who weren’t used to ‘talking’ without a keyboard, a cell phone or a computer— even the little ones. She could see the kids’ expressions, and help them understand social interplay the old-fashioned way. Sometimes she wore a clown nose. I want to be her.
Mrs. B doesn’t need a computer and doesn’t use email or instant messages. She writes notes to people, does her banking inside the bank, visits friends, and has the bridge club at her house once a month. The book club is on the third Thursday of the month, bridge club on the second Tuesday, and baby quilters on the fourth Friday. Mrs. B. volunteers at the local hospital stuffing envelopes and helping the cooks put little white cups on the trays for the patients. She wears a hairnet, gloves, and an apron for this job. The apron comes down to the floor, and the extra small gloves hang off her tiny hands like a four-year-old dressing up in her mom’s clothes. The hairnet is covered by a big blue surgical hat of which the hospital purchased tens of thousands at a huge discount, making Mrs. B look like a cross between a blue mushroom and a midget chef. Her died red hair pokes out from under the blue hat, clown style. I still want to be her.
She laughs easily. She has a razor-sharp mind and an expanding heart, especially for children. Her favorite volunteer work is reading to kids in hospitals, schools, churches, and libraries. It is becoming a lost art, and she cried when the safety laws required that she wear a badge, get fingerprinted, TB tested, and background checked all so she could be a chaperoned “aide” in the room while she read to the kids.
“All I want to do is entertain and teach the children,” she said. The laws have changed, the world has changed, the people have changed. It became too much of a hassle for her and eventually, she had to cut way back because they couldn’t find a chaperone. It was a loss for the kids and left a huge void in Mrs. B’s wonderfully abundant heart.
One day, all the cell phones on the earth stopped working, (Let’s pretend. Okay?) and the Internet coughed and blinked out for a 24-hour period. Mrs. B’s life did not change at all, except that the people in the retirement home where she lived came down to the central meeting room for a change. At first, it was a trickle. Then walkers and wheelchairs arrived in a steady (if slow-moving) stream. Finally, they flooded the room. The area was awash in blue hairs, and the chattering and laughing brought life back into the home that usually served as the Grim Reaper’s waiting area.
New acquaintances became friends. The next day, cell phone service was restored along with the Internet. The newly connected oldsters brought homemade, wobbly-lettered placards to the dining area. “INTERNET GO HOME!”
The real Mrs.B is gone now, but I’d still like to be Mrs. B some day. Maybe I can. Just turn off the phone. Turn off my computer. And step into the world where ferns and rocks and leaves wait patiently for me to saunter by. My phone? What phone. Nope, it is Mrs. B now. You may call me Mrs. B if you’d like.