This was going to be a "real" blog post. Because it's true. It happened last week, and I've been wanting to write about it ever since. And I do have an issue with Chareidi society raising illiterates. But I'm in novel-writing-mode, so this is what came out. There's no reason I can't make the same point in fiction, right?
"So how can I send a document?" Bracha asked.
Karen sighed. There was so much to explain. "You see the paper clip? And underneath it 'attach'? It's called attaching when you add a document to an email."
Michael, sitting over at the next desk, sniggered loudly. Karen swiveled around and glared at him. It wasn't Bracha's fault, that she knew none of this. She was a product of the system.
Bracha sat on a folding chair beside her, eyes glued to the computer screen. "What's an inbox?"
Bracha had called in a panic. "All the tourist sites want to send me emails. They won't mail the brochures. They won't even agree to fax the details. And the principal wants this trip organized by Friday! Listen Karen, I need your help"
And so, an hour later, here she was, sitting in the office, soaking in what a lifetime of education had denied her.
Karen couldn't really blame Michael for laughing at them. The conversation must sound funny. As she explained to Bracha how to open a Gmail account, as her words echoed in the room, they sounded ridiculous. As if she were teaching a child perhaps, or an 80 year old. No, not even that. Children were on Facebook nowadays, and grandparents on Twitter.
"But how will you use your account? You don't have internet access anywhere. You can’t come here every day." It was one thing teaching Bracha how to use email. Karen couldn't have her turning up repeatedly. The bosses would complain.
"Well the secretary has internet on her computer. She'll let me use it."
"So why couldn't she have dealt with this?" Karen was annoyed. The interruption was using up precious work hours. Hours she'd have to make up later.
"Oh she doesn't know how to use it either. I don't know why Rabbi Horowitz bothered to have it installed."
Bracha was a computer teacher at the local Bais Yaacov elementary school. She'd studied with Karen in Seminary. Together they'd been taught programming languages and office programs. They'd done homework, and given practice lessons. But one thing they'd never been allowed near was the World Wide Web. There was a ban on using the internet in the Chareidi world. It wasn't lifted even for those who were supposed to work in the field.
Karen still remembered her first job interview. The face of the man interviewing her, when she didn't know what MSDN was, hadn't heard of any of the popular programming websites. She hadn't gotten that job. She'd learned her lesson by the next one. Going to the local library, and browsing site after site, in preparation.
Nowadays Karen was pro. Despite her long skirts, and prim button down shirts, despite being automatically labeled as religious, and hence obviously backwards, she was "Tech savvy", she was part of the modern world. She would prove it. She could Google with the best of them. She wrote a technical blog. She was on all the online social networks.
She had joined a dating website too, but that was a secret. That was one thing nobody was allowed to know.
Her old friends, the girls she'd gone to school with, the girls she'd grown up with, none of them could understand this new language she was speaking, new universe she was spending time in. Except for the others who'd also rebelled against teaching, who'd also sought to join the secular work force. One by one they too joined her online. Together they formed networks, and chatted, and posted photos; forgetting the Rabbis' warnings, ignoring the bans.
But Bracha, good pious Bracha, never had. She'd listened to what she was taught, followed the instructions given by society's leaders. She'd managed fine in her teaching job, typing and printing and mailing, travelling to libraries in the center of the country when she needed to do research.
Yet now the school Bracha taught in, the Bais Yaacov school, wanted her to organize a trip for them. And for that she needed to use the sinful Internet. So here she was, coming to learn what she'd been told was wrong, having no choice. Sitting clueless and sounding ludicrous, which basically she was. Because she was this century's equivalent of illiterate. She 'd been purposely raised to be ignorant.
4 days ago