02/23/2016 04:18 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2017

Spinning Around

A friend of mine recently installed a screen saver on my laptop computer. Whatever appears on the screen for more than a couple of minutes kindly bows and exits.

That conserves energy, which I like. You'll find me turning the faucet and using the least amount of water for teeth brushing and shaving. Unused lights get turned off too, saving energy and not incidentally trying to beat out Con Edison a little on their next month's bill.

The screen saver, as it gets rid of a screen, somehow also encourages me to get rid of messages that don't need hanging on to. (On the belief that they slow down its functioning, I go regularly to the "Delete" department of the computer and sweep out some stored up messages. People say that the number of messages you've stored has nothing to do with how fast the computer does its job. But that seems unappealing to me, and anyway my drive toward neatness appreciates seeing that part of the computer screen looking uncrowded.)

The desktop on my computer now has a new background photo, also thanks to the same helpful friend. At the moment the photo is of a small Paris hotel where I stayed happily a couple of years ago. My friend has shown me how to change that desktop look myself, but why dig into such things since I'm lucky to have him willing to do the job for me.

While he was at it, the friend looked into the folder on my computer called "Pictures," where I've collected photos starting in 2007, nine years ago. Yikes. Dozens of photos. He programmed a slideshow of these photos that begins soon after the screen saver has gotten rid of whatever had been on the screen.

"Do I get to pick what goes on the slideshow?" I asked.

"Nope," he said. "The computer does that."

The computer does that! Who? This hit me as an unwanted loss of freedom. I wasn't eager to give him/her that much license, but apparently there was no choice.

Then came the surprise. The slideshow doesn't go from, say 2007 photos to 2008 photos, and so on. It seems randomly to pick a picture from 2007, then one from 2009, then two from 2012, and spins around to wherever it feels like landing. I've come to like sitting in front of the screen, wondering which image will come next.

Doing this invariably revives a lot of memories. The majority of the photos were taken on trips, many abroad, and a lot almost a decade ago. It's a game I play with myself, to see if I can identify a photo as to time and place. That game is called defense against senility.

My friend and his husband are planning to travel to Scandinavia this summer, and I dug into an old photo album and showed him photos from a trip I took to Sweden and Norway with a couple of friends in 1994. Had I deluded myself into thinking that not much has changed, the photos give proof that I was certainly deluding myself. How young we were!

As photos spin around in the slide show, those same friends reappear from a different trip, one we took together to Russia ten years ago. A decade gives ample time for change. But if the 1994 and 2005 photos mark the difference between those days and now, the two friends I remain friends and with such long tenure value one another even more. I'm OK with the photos.

Stanley Ely writes about travel in his book Life Up Close, a Memoir in paperback and ebook.