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My Modem Speaks

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon

Sometimes speed can make things slower.

As a modem, I'm really not used to writing feature articles. As a matter of fact, I don't even think on my own; I leave that to humans.

But what could I do? Salomon begged. I caved.

Let me explain.

Some of you have enjoyed many (no, not all) of Yaakov Salomon's commentaries on life these past few years. And I have even played an integral role in delivering them to your screen. That's all we dial-up modems basically do. We don't reason. We don't question. We're just glorified, electronic delivery boys. And we certainly don't write.

So, when Salomon approached me to fill in for him this time, I was rather reluctant, to say the least.

"Listen," he began, "I've got a problem. Maybe you can help."

"Sure," I replied. "Got an important email to send? An attachment that just won't cooperate? An oversized, unzipped file that doesn't seem to want to leave home? I'm your man ... er ... modem."

"Well ... it's not quite like that. I need a ghost writer for my next piece and...well...I just thought that maybe, if you weren't too busy..."

"Me?" I squeaked. "You got the wrong guy, pal. I'm just a measly modem. I just carry the stuff; I don't create it."

"I know, I know," he pleaded. "But I'm in a fix and you're in a perfect position to help me."

"I'm listening."

I wasn't really. Nor was I particularly interested in this new enterprise he was broaching me with. Remember, I don't really have any goals or aspirations in life. I just do my job. I don't need promotions, advancements, or new responsibilities. Besides, what kind of fix could he possibly be in?

"Look, how long have you known me?" he asked.

"Long enough," I countered.

I had no idea where he was going with this, but it sounded suspicious.

"Have I ever asked you for anything other than to be a faithful mailman?"

"C'mon Salomon, cut to the chase," I demanded.

"Okay, okay," he relented. "I'll give it to you straight. You and I have had a kind of contractual understanding for over three years. You have consistently and loyally brought me my mail, delivered my mail, and connected me with the internet when the need arose. And you've done a fine job. But times they are a changin'.

"I don't quite know how to break this to you, but you're ... um ... being ... er ... replaced."


"Look. My schedule can get hectic, as you know. I just got a little tired of waiting for you to drag your bag into my domain, collect all the mail, sing that funny 5 note tune, and then painstakingly deliver or send the stuff one or two pieces at a time. It was wasting my time. It was getting torturous!

"Not to mention the ridicule I got from brother Izzy, my kids and seemingly everyone in my Address Book for still using you, instead of hi-speed DSL or cable!

"It's nothing personal, but you simply cannot stand in the way of progress. Dial-up modems like you inevitably end up in the trash heap or the recycle bin, together with land-line phones, pop-up toasters, floppy disks and dozens of other archaic, slowpoke devices. New technology saves us incredible amounts of time so we all can accomplish so much more than we used to. I'm sure you understand."

I had to admit that he did make some sense. But one mystery remained. Why did he suddenly need me to write this piece for him? Why couldn't he do it himself?

"You're probably wondering why I suddenly need you to write my piece for me?"

Now I was listening.

"Well, as you have seen for yourself, a few weeks ago I did get DSL. And that baby is humming at 1.5 megabits per second! No, I don't have any idea what that means, but the speed is really incredible. Just think of how much time I was going to save!

Something strange has happened. Instead of gaining loads of time, somehow ... inexplicably ... I now have less time than ever!

"But something strange has happened. Instead of gaining loads of time, somehow... inexplicably...I now have less time than ever! Yes, I'm as surprised as you are, but I may just have an angle on it.

"You see, before, when you and your Heinz-like, take-for-eternity delivery system was my only means of connecting to the world, I couldn't be bothered to send or pick up much email or surf at all. No offense, it was just too torturous. So I ended up using that time for many other things -- like writing those articles.

"But now I've entered Planet DSL and it's amazing! It moves so fast I'm always using it! So now I don't really time for everything anymore. And I'm at my deadline with no time left to write! But you, being unemployed and all, have got hours and hours available to you with nothing to do. Surely you could pinch hit for me in my time of need, no?"

Well, you could have blown me over with a USB cable. Here was Salomon, groveling to me to bail him out of a tough spot ... and this after he fired me! He had made a mistake. In his quest for progress he had found himself in relapse. But at least he knew it. And I actually found myself feeling sorry for the poor guy.

Who could blame him? It is such an easy error to make. Shortcuts! Everyone wants shortcuts! Instead of trusting ole reliable -- by doing it right -- we think we can outsmart ourselves. I decided to go easy on the guy.

"Okay, okay," I said, "stop slobbering all over the keyboard. I'll do the article for you -- just this once. I guess I do appreciate the decent treatment you've given me over the years.

"But Salomon, realize that we're approaching the holiest days of the year -- the period dedicated to resolution and repentance. Everyone has his own list of do's and don'ts and each one of us must fight our own battles and tribulations. Among yours may be the battle of shortcuts -- the inclination to do things faster, but less thorough; the desire to get things over with, regardless of their outcome; the need to save time but then not know what to do with the savings.

"Don't just fawn over every time-saving device before you understand why you want more time in the first place."

And to you readers out there: hope you liked my article. Not bad for the first time, eh?

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