Flashback two decades: We are all in the car, ready for one of our family camping trips — four daughters, two parents, trail mix and water bottles, pillows and blankets, an amazing amount of overnight bags and camping gear that my husband always manages to pack into the car and still maintain visibility out the rear window, and then it happens. My husband turns off the motor, says, “Wait, I forgot something,” and dashes back into the house. For some gadget.
This happened more than once. Actually, I think it happens at the beginning of every trip we take.
My husband is a gadget-lover. He is first in line for the latest technological innovation, especially if Apple makes it. He owns the first generation of just about every cool thing that has come along during our marriage.
It’s not only computer stuff. His fascination extends to any cunning device that will make life more convenient, or perhaps more complicated, but at least more interesting. He is a photography buff, enthusiastically collecting the many accessories one can add to a camera that make taking pictures so much fun. Early in our marriage, he figured out how to turn the bathroom in our one-bathroom house into a temporary darkroom, which he would then kindly dismantle when he finished developing film and printing photos. When photography went digital, of course he embraced an entire new line of gadgets designed to enhance the photographer’s evolving craft. He does take beautiful photos, but good grief. You should see the stuff he uses to make the magic happen.
I sometimes call my husband Inspector Gadget, which isn’t fair to him, as he really does know how to work all his gadgets, unlike the bumbling, clueless character from the TV show. The animated Inspector Gadget was usually victorious over the bad guys in spite of his lack of expertise with the various gadgets that were built into his body. My husband is technologically quite proficient, although he has not become bionic … yet.
An example of a recent acquisition that he delights in is a tie rack that lights up and rotates like a dry-cleaning conveyer belt. He wears a tie to work every day, and what better way to choose the appropriate one? This device is much more wondrous than the old tiered plastic hangers that used to hold his ties. We donate a lot of things that have outlived their usefulness in our house.
But I can’t complain, because if my husband is an early adopter, I am a laggard. I am fortunate that he patiently coaches me through the marvelous uses of things like my smartphone and my laptop computer; otherwise I would be a total Luddite. I might still be using a typewriter if I had not married a good teacher. Technology and I are uneasy friends, but my husband has shown me that we can get along.
Sometimes, when I am waiting in the car for my husband to retrieve the thing he almost forgot, I think back to the cacophony of complaints from the second and third row of seats when Dad forgot something and had to run back into the house. We mostly travel now just the two of us, and I open the passenger door for some air while he tracks down whatever thing he wants to try out on this vacation. I am calm. I’m used to living with Inspector Gadget, and I respect the intricacies of his mind. Like this day: We are on a beautiful stretch of the Pacific Ocean, just off Asilomar, outside of Monterey, a place I imagine is close to Heaven. I am perched on a high rock, still and contented, listening to the waves, pretty much doing nothing. I watch my brave husband down below on the sand, busily setting up some kind of time-lapse camera contraption on a tripod, all of which he has carted with him from the car. I feel a surge of love for him, as strong as the high tide, as I watch him having his idea of fun. He pushes back his hat, adjusts some controls, peers into the camera’s viewer, steps back, scratches his head. He performs this sequence many times over. Later he will show me the footage of our salty little piece of time at the ocean, which I have preserved only in memory. I must admit: It actually is pretty cool.