Virtual Party


“If you’ll excuse me, I have a scheduled video conference with my three year old son, it’s his birthday.”

“By all means. Go ahead!” our guests encouraged me.

I was late for an important date.

It was Johnny’s third birthday party and I wouldn’t miss it. I sent him a card with three American dollars in it, but that hadn’t yet reached him.

Instead I attended his party through the web cams Lisa and I bought before I left America. They are remarkable little devices and quite inexpensive considering what you can do with them. Hooked up to our respective computers we can see and talk to each other in real time.

The technology is not perfected. The picture is a little unclear and the voices delayed by the time it takes a signal to reach a satellite and bounce back to earth, but it is nonetheless almost like being there.

Naturally the kids love it and, as they will do with the telephone, they clamor for who’s turn it is to talk to Daddy. Lisa, generally at the center of the screen, often bears the expression of a weary single parent, patiently trying to referee the mélee. Generally it means assigning an order to the conversation.

“Alright, we’re going to go youngest to oldest. Johnny, you’re first, so everyone else get out!”

Last night was different. Birthday parties are supposed to be wild and this was no exception. The camera was positioned to give me the best vantage point for seeing the action. I smiled as Johnny tore into his presents and then excitedly ran to the computer to “show me.”

“See Daddy, its a truck! It’s a truck!”

“Good, son. That looks like a nice one.”

I couldn’t see everything and I still wanted to be there in person. But, it was a whole lot better than not being there at all and, even better than a simple phone call.

A virtual gift.

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