Coming To Terms

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By Hannah Reich Berman

Recently, one of my friends called to ask why I had not responded to her Paperless Post. I was momentarily stunned into silence; I had no idea what a Paperless Post was.

“Is that an e‑mail?” I asked. Now it was her turn to be silent. She probably could not grasp the fact that her good friend did not know what the term “Paperless Post” meant. Before she got a chance to say anything, I went on. “Or, if it’s not an e‑mail, is it a text?” When she found her voice, what she said was accompanied by a deep, world-weary sigh.

“Hannah, it’s an e‑vite, and it came to you in an e‑mail.”

“I never saw it,” I said.

“Uh, you did see it, because I can tell that you opened it. But you didn’t respond.”

Our conversation was making me uncomfortable. “Well, I don’t remember seeing it. But what difference does it make? We discussed it, so you know I am coming to the barbecue you’re hosting in honor of your daughter’s birthday. You know I love barbecues and you know I love your daughter. So why do I need to send a response?” This was followed by more silence (from her), and I was feeling more foolish with each passing second.

Somewhat exasperated, I am sure, she finally said that she wanted to collect all the responses and save them in a neat little package, tie them with a ribbon, and present them to the birthday girl. I still had no clear idea what she was blabbing about. The only thing I got out of her spiel was that she wanted to save the responses and that I was preventing her from being able to do that. If I didn’t answer this so-called e‑vite, my response would be missing from the collection.

This unbearable conversation went on for a few minutes more until she finally put an end to it. “OK, Hannah, I’ll answer it for you. How is that?” It sounded good to me. But, contrary to what I had assumed, the conversation did not come to a complete end right then and there.

“You really do not know what a Paperless Post is?” she asked in amazement.

“It looks that way,” I said.

“And you also never heard of an e‑vite?” Not wanting to sound like a total nincompoop, I responded by saying that I actually had heard of an e‑vite before but I don’t think that I ever responded to one. Finally my friend was truly speechless. This was not just another one of her pauses. She simply didn’t know how to react to what I had just told her. And I sensed that she was astonished by my lack of knowledge. This friend always goes out of her way to be kind, so she offered no real criticism—but she could not hide the fact that she was shocked.

Never one to let an opportunity slide, I figured out just what to do to make her understand that there are some people who are unfamiliar with certain things. My next words were: “Efsher du kenst meer a groisse toiveh teen? Zein azoy gut. Rett english mit mich, nisht computer lashon. Ich hub farshteit nisht ken ein vort.”

Now she was totally quiet. She had no idea what I had just said. When she finally recovered, she asked, “Why are you talking to me in a foreign language? I know English and Hebrew, but that about covers it. I don’t even know what language you were speaking just now.”

Without a minute’s hesitation, I said, “I was speaking in (my somewhat broken) Yiddish, because if you can talk to me in a foreign language I assumed I could do the same. And to me, computer jargon is a foreign language. Now you know how I felt when I didn’t understand a word of what you were saying.” I explained that, loosely translated, what I had said to her was the following: “Maybe you could do me a large favor and be so kind as to speak to me in English and not in computerese because I didn’t understand a single word.”

I am not sure which one of us laughed harder. But, sadly, I had more success in making her understand what I had just said to her than she had in making me understand what she had been saying to me. But there is an upside to our lengthy and uncomfortable exchange, and that is that I do not think she will ever again assail me with terms such as Paperless Post, e‑vite, and the like. She now seems to understand that there are limits to my knowledge. There are things I do not know and, unless I put my mind to it, am not likely to learn any time soon. I can live without knowing the terms she used. At my age, I do not want to tax my tired brain with more information. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.

 

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