Annals of Luddism, I

I like to imagine that Woodstock has more manual typewriters per capita than any other place in the country.  After all, these earth-friendly machines don’t consume electricity. 

I can’t get television in my Woodstock home.  Time Warner won’t string a cable down my long dirt road, and the neighbors’ pines and oaks rule out DirectTV.  Cell-phone reception is awful or nonexistent in the town because the manual-typewriter crowd has blocked the construction of cell towers. 

I need a cell phone that works in the Catskills, and so for years I was reduced to a no-frills, drab Nokia where the whole phone is effectively the antenna, maximizing the chances of reception.  Every few months or so I’d try a friend’s flip phone in Woodstock but it wouldn’t get a signal.  Because I am fidgety, the Nokia in my pocket, with its buttons exposed, would occasionally decide to call people on its own.  (Yes, I could use the number lock, but I’m afraid of forgetting the code.) 

A short time ago my pocket embarrassed me by making an early-morning call to a client who had been delinquent in paying me.  Usually I’d call the client’s office number during work hours to prod him for the money, but my pocket apparently had had enough and decided to call his cell—at 7:00 A.M.  I didn’t know what my pocket had done until I received a call at 7:01 A.M. from the miffed client, whom I had evidently disturbed while he was taking his sick pet to the vet.  I told him I hadn’t phoned him; later I reviewed the outgoing call log and saw that my phone had indeed called him. 

Nokia finally introduced a flip phone that works in Woodstock.  My pocket’s calling days are thankfully over, but, now for reasons unknown to me, other people’s pockets are calling me more than ever before. 


The pocket of a guy I know in the musical toy business has called me four times recently; I answered and heard muted voices or, in the evening, happy bar talk.  Actually I’m not sure I’ve ever had a two-way phone conversation with Mr. Toyman.  I’ve just listened to myself jabbering into the phone—like the tree that falls in the forest with no one around to hear it. 

3 Responses to “Annals of Luddism, I”

  1. chris Says:

    You should broadcast the muted jabberings on a radio station. One of my favorite conceptual art pieces ever: a small radio broadcaster strung up in the East River broadcasting pirate sounds–“Yarr!, Walk the Plank, Shiver Me Timbers.” It over-rode local radio stations on the East Side of the city. Wonderful.

    And a place with more type-writer per capita than other places sounds like a nice place to be.

  2. paulhoffman Says:

    I like the radio idea.

    I’m being a bit disingenuous about my attitude toward manual typewriters. I love them—I love how they look—but I would not have wanted to write the 150,000 words of King’s Gambit on one.

    There are many reasons to see “The Lives of Others,” not least of which is the fact that manual typewriters figure heavily in the plot.

  3. Tim Appelo Says:

    A crab fisherman of my acquaintance phoned his girlfriend in the Lower 48 from an Alaska bar. After the chat, he proceeded to attempt to talk the barmaid in Alaska back to his room–unsuccessfully. But the cellphone did manage to transmit the entire, lengthy unsuccessful-seduction conversation to the girlfriend down south. Who called back and retaliated in full. Grist for fiction, this sad fact–

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