This actually happened.
And you know about it, because I alluded to it yesterday. (And you might well have picked up on it on your own.) My reaction when it occurred was less embarrassment, though embarrassment would be entirely appropriate and I feel a little of that now writing about it. My response was, in fact, a startled though non-judgmental version of surprise, followed by a little flash bulb going off in my head, indicating that something remarkable had taken place, at least remarkable enough for me to write about it today. “Remarkable” does not necessarily mean “earthshaking”, so do not get overly excited. This is only about me. Though it is possibly about you as well. I shall leave it to you to decide how big a deal it is. I think it’s pretty big. But neither that statement nor my italicizing the word “big” is intended to prejudice your decision. Nor is it meant to induce you to continue reading after slogging through a lengthy and somewhat pedestrian paragraph.
Yesterday, I was talking about my anxiety related to my commitment to watching a TV series (BBC America’s “Broadchurch”), wherein one murder mystery story would be spread over eight consecutive weekly episodes. I did not know if I could do it, feeling intense pressure over making myself available eight Wednesday nights at 10 P.M. in a row.
I had had difficulty with two-parters in the past. Life’s inconveniencies invariably caused me to miss the concluding episode, resulting in my never witnessing the apprehension of the “one-armed man” (The Fugitive), or discovering whether they ever caught the guy who tried to assassinate President Roosevelt and killed the Mayor of Chicago instead (The Untouchables.) That was a commitment of two weeks, and I had utterly failed at it.
Now they were asking me for eight. By yesterday’s writing, I had already watched three, but I was feeling increasing discomfort over “going the distance”, listing numerous hypotheses for my missing an episode, including,
“What if I watch something boring at 9 and accidentally fall asleep?”
During yesterday’s writing, I deleted a paragraph explaining that every episode was only aired once, and that there were no internet outlets where you could catch up on already aired episodes that you had missed. (I did not mention Netflix because we do not have Netflix.) The reason I deleted that paragraph is because I took it as a “given” that my only option was to watch the show when it was broadcast, Wednesday nights at 10. This was done not to make it a better story, but because that was entirely what I, at that writing, believed to be the case.
Then, during a driving excursion with another couple our age, I “test ran” this blog post idea, hoping to pass the time in an amusing fashion, and fully expecting them to understand and sympathize with my predicament.
As it turned out, however, Leah, the female member of our companioning couple, did not. (And she was unquestionably speaking for her husband Paul as well.)
After regaling them with my agonizing uncertainty over being available to watch all eight episodes when they were broadcast, Leah, gently and tactfully, as if speaking to a person with severe brain deficiencies, remarked,
“We like to record things.”
At which point, the little bulb flashed illuminatingly in my head, followed by a clearly formed internal observation, that observation being…
“I never thought of that.”
It came to me as an entirely novel idea. Something that had truthfully never crossed my mind. As in,
“Pa, the baby’s comin’! Fetch the doctor!”
“Son, by the time I saddle up old Dobbin and ride into town…”
“Are you kiddin’ me? There’s a car parked in the garage!”
“Tape the show, and watch it at another time.”
Why didn’t I think of that?
It is not an entirely alien idea. We have TiVo somewhere in the house. I remember several years ago setting it up to record Have Gun, Will Travel episodes from the Westerns Channel, though I have never watched any of them and by now I have accumulated half a dozen or so re-recordings of every episode as during that time period the series has been rerun over and over again, and I have never bothered to turn the thing off.
I am aware of the technology that would have easily alleviated my concerns. But using it simply never occurred to me.
This story hinges on technology, a “Blind Spot” often associated with the pathetically “over-the-hill.” As you see, however, I have simultaneously disproven and proven that stereotype, via Leah who “likes to record things”, and myself, who – full and shameful disclosure – never thought of it. But for me, there are broader implications here. Especially for writers. Most specifically, for older writers.
We all have “Blind Spots.” However, the “Blind Spots” of youthful writers – such as their inability to contextualize due to an insufficiency of life experience – are more readily forgiven – or are never even noticed – by the highly coveted youthful audience they entertain owing to the fortuitous congruency of the “Blind Spots.”
Older writers’ “Blind Spots”, on the other hand, are deal-breaking impediments to connecting with that youthful audience. And you cannot accommodate for them, because you are not aware that they’re there.
That’s what I’m talking about, using my technological “Blind Spot” as an analogy.
It is my best metaphor to date on the issue of what it is older writers are missing.
But I shall remain on the lookout for a better one.