For all the many reasons life feels so tricky in 2018 – hideous partisan politics, the changing divide between genders, the inexplicable popularity of the Kardashians – one reason has stood out to me as of late. We’re living through a confusing time period that I’ve come to call “The In Between Times.”
That would be the space between “back in the day” and some presumably far better tomorrow.
Life during The In Between Times generates a ton of confusion. Like Wednesday, when I arrived at a buddy’s house and spied a thick sheath of bound yellow paper littering his driveway. It was soggy to the touch from the monsoon. Nonetheless, I carried the waterlogged item to his front door. Our comedy routine went on a full five minutes.
“What is this thing?” I asked.
“It says ‘Yellow Pages,” was his answer. “Huh. You think Amazon screwed up and it’s for someone else?”
Me: “Maybe a drone dropped it?”
Then we made the ritual annual walk to the recycling bin and gave the Yellow Pages a proper burial.
The In Between Times – when some businesses remain willing to buy ads in the Yellow Pages, so someone continues to print virtually worthless phone books – provides many such confusing moments. Last week, for example, I told a freelance designer I would mail her a check that afternoon.
This Millenial’s response?
“You know, I actually don’t take checks now. I do PayPal, Cash app or Zelle. Whichever works best for you.”
You know what would work best for me? If accepted methods of exchanging currency that have been in use for decades wouldn’t go out of style before my very eyes.
Pretty soon, I’m going to make what nowadays has become known as a “dad” joke – “The check is in the mail!” – only to be greeted by the blank stares and slack jaws that have become staple expressions during The In Between Times.
I’m sure that was the look they wore at the corporate headquarters of Border’s Books and Blockbuster Video, at precisely the moment the digital future kicked those companies in the organizational private parts.
That’s The In Between Times for you: You do things one way for 10 or 20 years. Then, all of a sudden, 99 percent of the world is doing that thing a better way, and you’re the last to know. Though not all the time.
A few weeks ago, my doctor’s office asked me to sign a document and fax it to them.
Me: “Uhh, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but it’s not 1999. I don’t have a fax machine. It’s in the trash next to the Betamax and the telephone answering machine. How about I sign this thing digitally and email it back?”
Thereafter, I was treated to a long lecture about end-to-end email encryption and HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. I’ll spare you the gory details. Basically, it’s way tougher for some 14-year-old in Moscow to hack your podiatrist’s fax machine than it would be to compromise an email account.
Which I guess someone should have told Hillary Clinton back in, like, 2016.
Anyway, such is life during The In Between Times. One day, the future will arrive with all its glorious improvements on modern life. Your GPS won’t malfunction anymore and guide you into the labyrinth of dead ends around Sky Harbor Airport. Siri won’t mishear you and text someone to “duck off.”
And newspaper columns like this one will no longer be an assault on your senses.
Mostly because I doubt there will be newspapers like this one when The In Between Times finally, mercifully come to an end.