About three years ago, seemingly on a whim, my Dad became one of the first people I knew to get an iPad. Nothing remarkable in that you might think, aside from it being a slightly extravagant impulse purchase on his part, but I was incredulous. What could a man who already counted a desktop, a laptop, a smartphone and an mp3 player amongst his myriad possessions possibly need with an iPad? One afternoon, overwhelmed by curiosity and more than a passing twinge of mischievous boredom, I asked him.
"Well, the thing is Ben," he began, clearing his throat and glancing earnestly in my direction, "it's because I'm an early adopter."
"Oh..." I blinked, stunned. The words had hit me like a wrecking ball. Not a nude-and-licking-spanners kind of wrecking ball, oh no. A metaphorically and emotionally devastating one (although having said that, I may have repeatedly stuck my tongue out, it's difficult to tell - I was all over the place.)
"So I'm not yours then?" I whispered, choking back tears. Mentally, I was already compiling a list of all the the glaringly obvious but previously unconnected differences that separated us, warning signs of a fabricated paternity. First there was our height; I'm almost a foot taller than him. Next, skin tone; his is about seven shades darker than mine on the Dulux colour chart. And finally, our reactions to lights being left on in unoccupied rooms; mine, nonchalant; his, apoplectic. Terrifyingly, everything was beginning to add up. But if I wasn't my Dad's, then whose was...
"Don't be a pillock," he cut in with a frown, stopping my deliberate mis-deliberation in its tracks. "You know what I mean."
Which was fair enough, because I did. I was just pretending not to understand him for comedic effect. But the reason I was doing so was to prove a point. The way I saw it, how could a man who had once, in preparation for a long train journey, attempted to update his iPod with a single track, but had instead inadvertently replaced all its previous content with said song (and as a result been forced to listen solely to 50 Cent's In Da Club all the way from Hull to London and back), possibly be considered a technology trailblazer? And yet here he was, swiping and prodding away at a tablet, looking for all the world like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. They were even the same height, for goodness' sake.
On reflection, I reaIised my scoffing was less about my Dad's gadgetry enslavement, and a lot more to do with my uneasy relationship with technology. For, despite a penchant towards dressing like a Victorian rake, I've always tried to embrace mod cons - they just haven't always hugged me back. Take the mini-disc for instance; successor to my jumpy and unreliable CD walkman, I excitedly unwrapped one on my 14th birthday and spent countless hours throughout the following weeks transferring my music collection onto brightly coloured chunks of plastic, only to see it superseded a year or so later by mp3 technology. The same thing has happened with DVDs too - no sooner had I amassed a shelf full of my favourite titles than they all appeared on Netflix. In vain, I tried to sell some recently to clear space, and was offered 10p a disc. Ten pence! To my dismay, that won't even buy you a packet of Space Raiders any more.
So, disc-less and crisp-less, what have I learned? Well, primarily that I'll probably always be more at home with vintage clobber than I am new fangled gadgets. I know where I stand with a pocket watch, and that's by my dresser, impatiently winding it every day. Plus, it can never go out of fashion as it's been so long since it was in fashion. However, cutting edge tech begrudgingly has its place too, and admittedly I buy most of my accessories and old-fashioned attire over the internet using apps. Perhaps I owe my Dad an apology after all. I'd better just fire him an email - now how do I do that on my new iPad?