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Friday, November 11, 2011

For an embarrassingly long time — most of my adult life, in fact — I wouldn't pump my own gas. As the years dragged on, this became a problem any time I needed refueling, and I solved it by driving as far out of my way as necessary to find a full-service station. This, in turn, used up more gas, so that I had to do it more often than I would have otherwise. And I had to pay more per gallon, too.

Eventually, and with patient help and guidance, I learned to pump gas, and my life got just a smidgen easier. I still won't bag my own groceries, but that hasn't become a problem yet. My favorite supermarket not only insists on doing the work, but they ask me every time if I'd like help out to my car. That's carrying full service beyond any frontier I find it necessary to cross, but I'm fine with saying no and letting it go at that.

For some reason, not pumping gas made me feel inadequate. When I compare myself to more competent people (which includes nearly everyone I know, at least in some arena or other), I fall short. So I don't like to give up control in those arenas where I do feel competent. My boss would like it if I'd let him hire a payroll service, but I want to write the checks myself, and so far I've resisted. Because I work for a construction firm, there is job cost accounting involved in the payroll, and it's just complex enough that I don't trust anyone else to do it correctly. By "correctly," I mean "the way I do it."

So I go through my days making these deals with myself. I'll try a little harder where I can, and I'll give up a little power where I need to. For some reason, I've always resisted audiobooks. I never wanted to give up the power to read at my own pace, reread passages that intrigued or confused me, and give my own voice to the characters and the narrative. I like books, and books have always been tangible things that I hold in my hand. Even after I started reading mostly on Kindle, I still felt connected in the same way to the material.

Now let us fast-forward many decades, to a time when my aged eyes tire more easily than they once did. I can't read for long periods of time because I can't see clearly for long periods of time. So I thought I'd take a chance and download a book or two, taking advantage of Audible's free first month (and two free books). I was still halfway through a Kindle book, but so far I've listened to three books, and I think I'm hooked.

In fact, I might never read a printed book again. That's probably overstating it, but the thought of sitting back (or doing manual chores that don't pull my attention away) while a disembodied voice gives life to words gives me a sense of peace, and a sense of accomplishment I didn't think was possible if I didn't do the work myself. There was a time, not so long ago, when I wouldn't even have considered this "reading."

Ah, but it's all so different now, although I'm still new to it. My eyes feel rested, and my mind is nourished, and I can get through many more books this way. In case you've forgotten, I'm a painfully slow reader. Now I can read as much as I ever did, and do it without having my eyes tear up. Audiobooks, it turns out, are pretty close to full-service books, at least in my case.

Here's what I have to remember, though: Even more than before when I did the reading myself, I can't listen to an audiobook when I'm tired or distracted. Not only will my concentration waver, forcing me to rewind, but I'm also likely to fall asleep, with no idea where I stopped listening. This is all new to me, but I'm enjoying the change, for once.

What I don't yet have is portability. I don't own a smart phone or a tablet or a laptop or any other device I can use to listen to my books while sitting in the coffee house guzzling soy lattes. That's another bridge to the twenty-first century that I haven't until now found it worthwhile to cross. But, having opened myself up to so many new things already, why not? (I do have to save up, is all. Should I get a Zune, do you think?)

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