I was watching a movie the other night about a Spanish news team following a crew of firefighters around for a night. Everywhere the fire crews went, the young reporter was right behind them, furiously scribbling in her notebook to capture the drama. 

When things went south and zombies started eating people — what, did you think I was watching a romance or something? — the reporter never abandoned her notebook. Sure, it was blood-smeared and the reporter had to occasionally scramble away from the flesh-chomping undead, but God love her, she never let go of the gore-streaked pages.

These scenes made me weirdly wistful. 

“I used to carry a notebook,” I mumbled into my bag of Doritos. 

And just like that, this sad memory ruined the whole movie for me. Why, I couldn’t even get excited during the part where the decrepit old lady rose from the dead to start munching on her neighbors like it was a buffet all up in here. 

Normally that kind of action would have me grinning like Beavis and/or Butt-Head, but no. All I could think about was the fact that I no longer carry a notebook and how I once swore that such a day would never come. 


So, what happened? Well, eventually the reporter lady and her cameraman got stuck on an upper floor where the naked and emaciated proto-zombie chased them around in the dark. 

But you were probably asking about the notebook, right? My mind wanders. 

What happened is technology. Ubiquitous, convenient and unavoidable technology turned my floppy, faithful notebook into an archaic relic good for little more than starting fires or swatting flies. 

Why stand at a crime scene trying to scribble fast enough to keep up with witnesses talking at 1,000 words per minute, when I could just click a single button on my phone and record the whole conversation? 

Why write down anything at all when those recorded conversations can later be run through transcription software to transform recorded voices into nice, neat text? 

Once you start using that kind of tech, there’s just no going back. Suddenly, the notebook that has been your friend for three decades seems almost comically obsolete — like something that should be yellowing in a museum for young folk to point and laugh at.


The lowly reporter’s notebook has become a relic. I tried to hold out as long as I could in letting it go, but the last time I used pen and paper at a crime scene, it went something like this. 

WITNESS: “… and that’s exactly what I saw before police came and started gathering up the body parts.” 

ME: “Riveting stuff. Would you mind repeating it?” 

WITNESS: “Which part?” 

ME: “Every word. All I have written here is the word ‘the’ and then my pen ran out if ink.” 

WITNESS: “I’m going to talk to the TV guys.” 


That I succumbed to the lurid temptations of technology is a great shame to me. I suppose anybody who works the same job long enough will eventually outlive the tools of his trade — office workers nearing retirement today probably remember working on manual typewriters and how antiquated does THAT seem? — but my divorce from the notebook happened so unceremoniously. There was no romantic goodbye featuring me and my notebook standing in the pouring rain and promising, tearfully, to never forget one another. There was no farewell celebration to mark the end of such a thrilling and productive era.

My notebook and I simply parted ways. I became bedazzled by the shiniest new gizmos on the shelf and that was that. That’s all it took to make me toss aside both pen and paper. Out with the old, in with the new.

It’s a pity, really, because the humble notebook DID have some small but important advantages over the grand technologies of the day. 

For one thing, no matter where I went out in the world of crime and mayhem, I never had to introduce myself as a reporter. All I ever had to do was pluck that faithful notebook out of my back pocket and people understood at once what I was there to do. 

In those golden days before social media and online everything, people were still beguiled by the appearance of that notebook. To the average Joe or Jill, the notebook was clear confirmation that here was a guy who was out on the street on OFFICIAL BUSINESS. 

The notebook often drew people to me as if by magic. I didn’t have to go scrounge around for witnesses very much because that simple pad of paper acted like a beacon on the egos of those milling in my proximity. Want to get your dramatic accounts on record and see your name in the newspaper? Go see the dork with the notebook, friend. He’ll make you famous! 


These days? I stand out on the streets like a putz, limply holding my phone before the masses and expecting it to work the same old magic. But a phone is something everybody has. It doesn’t beguile or dazzle anyone at all, and it certainly doesn’t identify me as someone who is out on OFFICIAL BUSINESS. 

The photographers have their gigantic cameras to indicate to all that they are professionals. The TV news reporters (blech) have their comically large microphones and everybody knows a video journalist at a glance because he’s the one running around with something the size of a microwave oven bouncing up and down on his shoulder. 

To stand out as a NEWS PROFESSIONAL, a reporter these days has to dress the part. Fancy shoes, neatly pressed slacks and hair that is cut by someone other than himself. And even then, he’s just a nicely dressed weirdo out on the street asking people to speak into his phone. 

The notebook spared me from all that nonsense, but those days are over and now I’m just a regular schnook out on the street hoping people will believe me when I claim to be a journalist.

Into the dustbin of progress goes the notebook and along with it, a whole lot of memories of that simple age.

No more racing back from a big fire or a brawl in the streets and struggling to read a single word of my handwriting in those sweat-sogged notebook pages. 


No more flipping open a notebook for an interview only to find that all the pages are full and having to write all my notes on my arm — and on other body parts if the story is really big.

No more gut-punch panic when I get back to the newsroom only to discover that my notebook is no longer in my back pocket, and then having to go rifle through back alley dumpsters the rest of the night to find it. 

No more finding old notebooks years later and recalling that after that big fight on Bartlett Street, a witness told me that the whole thing started when “Farbuncle hooted the snerf pissoon,” or whatever the hell that says. My handwriting has always been atrocious. 

So, I watched the horrifyingly awesome movie “REC” and came to realize the whole thing was just a stunning metaphor for how technology is turning us all into mindless zombies and how if we don’t turn back at once, our neighbors will try to eat us. 

Or something. I’d like to tell you that in the end, the good guys were saved by that humble notebook somehow, but no. Ultimately, everybody became food for the zombies and the metaphor was either complete or it fell apart entirely.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from this excellent film, it is this: “Gorsninkle zorenpoog tinkle snorbotum.” 

Or at least that’s what it says in the notes I took during the movie. 

And I stand by it, too. 

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