Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Men have become the tools of their tools."*

   I recently had the opportunity to spend a weekend without Internet, and I have to tell you it was such a great spiritual, enlightening experience.

   Just kidding.

   It sucked ass.

   It stormed and rained on Saturday and while that may not be related to the Internet situation, it seems too coincidental to be completely ignored. Not that I understand where the Interweb comes from or how it gets on my computer or how anything technological works, but I’m almost positive the rain or those kamikaze palm fronds caused the ‘net to be wiped out for nearly 30 hours. Boo. Or maybe it was just Verizon’s damn fault.

   But anyway.

   I felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder out on the prairie without plumbing or insulation or running water or electricity. (Or store-bought underpants or deodorant or tampons, for that matter.) It was truly just as bad as that.

   There are a bajillion things you can’t do without the Internet, and I’ll admit that some are more important than others, but in the end they're all highly essential. I have no idea what would have happened without my 3G cell phone (which also didn’t work too consistently). I most likely would have died. Really. I would have died.

   Here is what you can’t do without the Interwebs:

1. Check the blogs you like to read.

2. Find out if anyone has liked anything you did/said/posted on Facebook.

3. Check your bank balance.

4. Check your email.

5. Get directions to anything.

6. Find out a phone number. (Remember phone books? Yeah, they still exist. But who has one? I always throw away recycle the one they leave on my stairs, so they’re no use to me.)

7. Watch anything on Roku. (That means no Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. What am I supposed to do? Watch a goddamn DVD? What am I, a farmer?)

8. Get a recipe that you had planned to make but to which you now have no access. (But you do have a crap-load of ingredients and no discernible clue on the planet what to do with them.)

9. Read the news. (Yeah, I don’t get the newspaper anymore so…)***

10. Find out how many calories are in the brownie you’ve been offered.

11. Check movie times.

12. Find out what a word means or if a celebrity is an Oscar winner or what your horoscope is or what the projected forecast might be.
13. Stave off the inevitable boredom and, upon losing, eat for the sole purpose of entertainment.

   Here’s the thing: I’ve trained myself over the last 12-13 years to be COMPLETELY DEPENDENT on the Internet. That’s what I thought I was supposed to do. I thought it was “the wave of the future.”

   And it’s sad, in a way, because I know I spent a good 18 years being perfectly sufficient without the Interwebs. I went to libraries to check out books for research papers. I looked up phone numbers in the phone book. I drove around aimlessly until I found whatever destination I sought (never have been able to read a map, maybe that's why I love maps so much?). I checked my horoscope in the newspaper (because, yes, I had a subscription). I called 4-1-1 from a pay phone to find out movie times, or I just went to the theatre and figured it out. I did those things, but…I don’t want to do them anymore. I really don’t.
California's cell tower power. **(

   In many ways, it’s easy to see how people in “ye olden times” kept it fit. They used to have to plow the fields all day and put a bucket down a well to get water and cut wood for the fire and then they’d go into the house and eat 6 pigs, four chickens, and a bushel of corn for dinner: you work hard, you get to eat a lot. Nowadays, we search the Internet from a seated position while eating microwave popcorn and can’t understand why we’re enormously fat.

   But imagine if Laura Ingalls Wilder’s well was filled with sand and her fields were blighted by insects and the trees were all wet and mealy and no good for firewood: then she’d feel as fucked as I do when the ‘webs go down.****
*Henry David Thoreau. Kind of a funny quote when you think of the new connotation the word "tool" has these days.
**Drawing inspired by Sam Resnick.
***I feel guilty that I implied that I read the news. I really don't. I did have a subscription to LA Times in college but since then my news-gathering has been mostly sporadic at best. I apologize both for misleading you and for not reading the news more consistently.
****I'm actually pretty sure all these things happened to Laura Ingalls Wilder and she did, in fact, survive. But that's not really the point I'm making.

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