Tuesday, January 13, 2009


This morning on the train I realized - because of the guy sitting next to me irritatedly rattling his precious newspaper - that his irritability, hence his rattling and reading routine, had something to do with his age, which was near my own (68) but, being of the old Japan school, he was much more regimented, which can make you grumpy, ask any Marine in basic training.

His paper had to be just so before he could even begin to read the article he had finally managed to topographically isolate, whereas I, who was reading a book (so simple to manage, so long lasting, so quiet!), am by intention a much less regimented individual, owing not only to my innate love of the eclectic, but also to my hyper-regimentative experience in Catholic school and the military, so have been spending the rest of my certifiably graduated and honorably discharged life pretty much relaxing, figuratively chewing on a hayweed as I stroll along life’s expressways in my trusty highway shoes, musing on modern life as it races by...

Anyway, at the long rattle I looked up from my book and got to thinking, did a quick little social analysis using the demographic sample at hand, and noted that newspaper reading is becoming entirely an enterprise of elder males. They were the only newspaper readers; elder males who were not reading a newspaper were asleep. In contrast, younger males who were awake were smiling or scowling into cell phones for whatever news was there, as were the younger women; the very few elder women were all asleep; they don’t usually read newspapers on the train anyway, that’s always been more of a male thing (and no longer much of a younger male thing). Fewer elder women also stare into cell phones, though they have them.

No one was reading a book except me, morning train oddball in many regards. For example, I’m one of the last commuters in Japan who doesn’t have a cell phone, which nowadays is like saying I don’t have a liver. Anyhow, it appears that newspaper reading is going to die out when these elder fellows retire, if not sooner. Cell phones are so much easier to hold with one hand when straphanging, and you don’t have to - as with a newspaper - fold them overandoverandover with geometric precision so as not to cause offense to neighbors, other than with that insufferable racket right in the ear of the guy sitting next to you trying to concentrate on his book.

I’m also one of the few elder guys who isn't grumpy on the morning train without good reason.


Tabor said...

I wonder if in years to come these little screens will be readable to those young males whose eyes begin to age. I am sure technology will improve the contrast...but getting four words per screen is slow reading.

Beth Westmark said...

First I stopped home delivery of our local newspaper. Then I stopped passing along the names of my husband's old cronies whose obituaries I would read in the electronic version of the paper. Then (unthinkable for a Southern woman) I stopped reading the obituaries altogether. I find my days are lighter and less burdened, and I am quite sure my husband's are, too.