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I have actually envisioned taking a pistol to my computer from time to time, but so far, I haven’t gone through with it. So far.

It’s been a week of technical frustration here at El Bungalow de Sweetie. Even though a lawnmower is not technically technology, after yesterday’s fiasco, I’m including it under the leaky umbrella of awfulness.  As I mentioned in last night’s rant, my phone is a pisser these days as well.

I am a late adopter, marrying an early adopter, and so MKL thought it would be great for me to get a SmartPhone about a year ago. Which I did. And I have regrets. I am now one of those people who no longer look out the window of the bus. I’m one of those people who can’t leave home without my phone. I’ve become one of those people I always snarked about.

When you upgrade to more sophisticated technology, you quickly integrate it into your daily life so that you feel dependent on it. And when it fails you – like my phone SO does often – you feel frustrated and betrayed. My phone deleted every picture I had taken since June. All by itself.  Just for some bitchy spiteful reason that it doesn’t want to talk about. That includes pictures from trips to Monument Valley and to Topsail. I hadn’t backed the pictures up on my computer because those two systems refused to speak to each other over the USB cable. (I think my phone has some personal problems.) While I mediated THAT communication breakdown last night, after downloading two separate programs that claimed they would recover the missing images, I am still bereft of said images. (Those programs lied. They were no help at all.)

When we were at Topsail, I got to talking with a lady slightly older than I. We were commiserating about the intrusion of technology in a place that feels like a throwback to an earlier era, as Topsail does. I remember when I was a kid at Topsail, my Dad would walk to the newspaper boxes in front of Mr. Godwin’s Market every morning to pick up copies of the Pender Chronicle, the Wilmington Star, and the Raleigh News & Observer (my Dad loved newspapers). That’s how we got our news. There was no TV. He had a radio that he brought with him that he set on the big table. That’s how we got our weather. Everyone at his work knew that he was out of town and unreachable. He had capable staff covering for him, and besides, nothing is as urgent as we think it is. We had no phone. He would walk down to the old glass pay-phone booth on Saturday nights to make his weekly calls to my grandmother. If my friends wanted to be in touch with me while we were gone, they would write me letters addressed to c/o General Delivery. Which they did.

We were not out of touch. We were in touch with each other, with the rhythm of the sea, with cooking and cleaning up after ourselves, with board games and books. We were simply at our ease.

I miss that. I can sometimes find that feeling on Anegada, when my internet doesn’t work. I could find it more often if I were disciplined enough just to disconnect. But there’s something different about disconnecting, as opposed to not having the connection in the first place. I can’t quite put my finger on it – it’s subtle and it’s infiltrating our concept of what we think we need (as opposed to what we actually need.)

All the noise of technology is drowning out the silence, the stillness, the mindfulness, and the care we took with things and with each other. Of course, I say this as I’m typing on a computer (as opposed to a typewriter) to an audience of hundreds who I would never have reached were it not for technology.

Ah, the irony of it.

And as for my phone, it was self-centered enough to save its own selfies, even though it wouldn’t save my pictures. I was going to post one of those pictures to accompany this blog entry, but guess what? I can’t find any of the pictures I did download from my phone last night anywhere on my computer.

And so, I bid you a disgusted good night.  May your dreams be techno-free.

 

 

 

Everyone is always so reserved at the bus stop.
 
Thursday night, for whatever reason, all the eastbound buses into Denver were delayed, so the queue at the Market Street Station was huge, snaking around the metal dividers. It could have filled three buses. Yet everyone just stood there patiently.  Occasionally, someone would make a raspberry-esque sound or heave a sigh.
 
I spurred a few chats with the woman ahead of me – she was wearing spike heels, and I was thinking of how her feet must feel.  I had been wearing my spike-heel, over-the-knee boots a few days earlier and noticed that, after walking for a while, my feet were killing me, and yet my face never gave it away.  So I broached the subject with her and she expressed extreme solidarity with the sentiment. We then speculated on how, seeing as how you have oodles of acupressure points in your feet that effect your entire body, this kind of foot pain might impact so many parts of us of without us being conscious of it, or relating the two. (I guess the moral of the story is don’t wear spike heels. Tell that to today’s fashion designers. And besides, they make you feel kind of sexy. And taller.)
 
When the bus finally arrived, everyone waited their turn and boarded in an orderly fashion, until all the seats were filled. And the bus departed.
 
I recall ex-Pat telling me tales of his trips to China, and among them was his first experience boarding a bus or a train. Everyone was milling around when the train arrived.  And when the doors opened, it became a free-for-all, a scene like something out a small-town downtown after their team has just won the NCAA championship title:  people pushing, shoving, elbowing, toe-stomping.  Little old grannies, using market bags as weapons were the worst, he said.  And once the seats were taken, the cramming continued until the standees were packed in like sardines and the seatees were subjected to up-close views of clothed body parts that no one wants to see, and nose-in physical aromas that no one wants to smell.
And heaven help the people getting off the bus. As he recounted it, I suspect some of them were forced against their will to make the return trip, simply due to the unforgiving press of boarding passengers.

Someday, I will have to experience this for myself. Perhaps in Nepal, or India. Or yes, maybe China on my own, Who knows?

It makes my idea of instigating a 10-second dance party at the morning bus stop (when I am in a good mood) seem rather tame. But I think to my fellow passengers, a 10-second dance party would be unthinkable.

So maybe next week, if I am in an exceptionally good mood, I’ll shake things up a bit.  There’s just no need for such propriety.

In the 1987 film Wall Street, Gordon Gekko (no relation to the Geico Gekko), portrayed by Michael Douglas, intones the following line:

“Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.”

The line has been summarized as “Greed is good” and has been used by Australian prime ministers, Italian cardinals, and characters in Fallout 2.  While it meshed well with the strong economic times of the 1990s, it now represents the high price that our society has paid for the actions of a covert few over the last ten years.  The irony behind it seems to strike more and more people every day, like a dead fish in the face. 

In the 1990s, I made more than I was making when my job left me at the end of March.  I worked with ad agencies and pharmaceutical companies that had money to burn.  This was back in the days when Tyco executive Dennis Kozlowski was spending $6000 of the company’s money on a shower curtain.  Everyone seemed to be flying high on the proverbial hog.  And then it all fell down – literally.  September 11 changed things.  Our soft underbelly was exposed, our humanity, our faith, all shaken.  For an all-too-brief time, we put aside our differences, our desires, our classist distinctions, and acted like a bunch of good people.  People who put others before our selves and our own needs.  Do you remember? 

Our economy took a dive.  Executives like those at Tyco and Enron were exposed for who and what they were and shamed for the damage they did.  Their victims were never compensated, but at least there was national, if not worldwide shame.  Then came the War on Terror – GWB always made it sound like “the War on Tara”, as if we were attacking the plantation from Gone With the Wind – and like confused children, we were hoping that things would get back to normal, that our world would make sense again.  But alas, that world was also gone with the wind.

(Please note that the opinions expressed here are just that – opinions – and my own.)  Instead, we’ve been sucked into eight years of bloodsucking, fiscally exhausting conflict that has apparently done nothing but fill with impunity the pockets of a few very special cronies of the past administration.  We all know it.  We just can’t do a damn thing about it.  Those of us who aren’t in a position to benefit from someone else’s power plays are resentful.  In fact, we’re sitting here watching what little savings we have left rise and fall according to the temperament of the stock market.  I swear, if I didn’t need my “assets” to be liquid, I’d be invested in real estate.  Maybe that’s not a bad idea.  As liquid as they are now, they’re getting pissed away.

And so, the point of this post….greed.  It magnificently and unjustly benefits a few.  I had lunch today with a  friend who is going through a divorce (join the club.)  Her “wasband” is trying to take her for everything he can, because he’s angry that she wants a divorce.  Her lawyer says he’s never seen anything like it.  And because she made more money than he did, he’ll probably get it.  Is he deserving?  No.  It’s nothing but greed.  Greed.  One of the seven deadly sins.  The question is, deadly to whom?  To the one whose soul is consumed by it?  Who has deluded oneself into thinking that things, money, revenge will soothe any pain that exists in the depths of the heart?  To the one who is now rich is assets but poor in spirit?

I have committed some of the 7 Deadlies myself.  I’ve been able to rationalize my actions – to delude myself, just like people who are guided by nothing but greed, into thinking that what I was doing was okay.  I’ve suffered the consequences, justifiably, and come out the other side.

I now comfort myself with the knowledge that those who are consumed by materialism, covetousness, and selfishness, deserve my pity.  And I know that they’ll get their comeuppance.  Greed may be the new black, but it will go out of style again.  It always does.  The richest people are the ones with their love of life and others intact. 

He who dies with the most stuff doesn’t win – he still dies.  Maybe one day, the people who live their lives driven by greed, will see that.  But I’m not holding my breath.  Then again, thank heavens, I don’t have to.

As a society, we seem to be schizophrenic – or at least inconsistent – about our attitudes around touching each other these days.  

Teachers are not permitted to hug students – even a comforting hug for a crying kindergartener can be misconstrued, turned into something suspect.  Elementary school kids are not allowed to touch each other at all.  No poking, tickling, shoving, hitting, patting – nothing.  That’s actually a good thing, I think, on the whole. 

In the workplace, any physical contact is either unprofessional or risks a sexual harassment charge.  You make friends with the people with whom you work (if you’re lucky), so I don’t agree with that hardline stance.

But then, there’s the other side.  Take pregnant women, for example.  The fact that you have a baby in your belly seems to say to everyone that your stomach is now public property.  I was always amazed at how total strangers would pat my belly when I was pregnant.  It’s the same amount of me, the same belly (well, less of it), that I have now.  Can you imagine coming up and patting my belly NOW?  Now that it’s just a normal, run-of-the-mill, doing-nothing-but-digesting belly?  Hell, no!  If you tried it, you’d find yourself short a hand.

The same public property principle seems to apply with Kelsea’s hair.  It’s at least two feet long when it’s in its daily braid, and that braid seems to have an irresistable appeal to her fellow students.  Everyone touches it, plays with it, pulls it, flaps it.  It makes her INSANE.  She absolutely hates it.  She’s told them in no uncertain terms to STOP.  And she’s entirely within her rights.  It’s part of her body.  Again, if it were another part of her body that was different from everyone else’s – say a deformed arm – it would be completely unacceptable for everyone to be touching and poking it.  But because it’s pretty and because it’s hair, it’s fair game.  That’s wrong.  The day after school ends, she’s donating 10-inches to Locks of Love – that way, her hair will be easier to care for over the summer, she’ll be doing something to help others, and it will grow back enough by the time that school starts that everyone won’t make a fuss about her cutting her hair.  If the hair-harassment (hairassment?) continues next year though, I may say something to the school-folk about it.  (After she punches someone in the face.)  It’s the principle of the thing.

And what’s more, the school seems to turn a blind eye to middle-school bullying, which includes punching, throwing things, and shoving.  I can only imagine the challenge of trying to administer appropriate protocols in a large middle-school, but the offenses which are noted and punished seem to be minor – and seem to be identified haphazardly.  Again, where’s the consistency?

Is there a solution to this quandary?  I’m not sure.  Maybe we all just need to relax?  Or maybe we’re all too far down some self-destructive pattern of evolution for us not to be paranoid about appropriate touching being misconstrued?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers.  I’m just here to ask the questions.

No, I’m not talking about smelly babies.  I’m talking about us, our society, how we interact with each other and the world around us. 

Sitting in the coffee shop (Paul’s Coffee Shop this time – I like working in coffee shops), I’m listening to the general buzz of conversation.  Several people are talking about how with the stroke of a key, they access this factoid or that piece of gossip.  Look back 60 years.  60 years isn’t really that long – although at the age of 13, I would have said it was forever.  I guess that perception is another thing that changes with time.  (How many of you remember, at one point in your youth, calculating how old you would be at the unthinkable turn of the millennium and barely being able to imagine it?) 

60 years ago, the world got its’ news from radio and from the newspaper.  TV, while in existence, wasn’t common.  The internet wasn’t even dreamed of.  If you wanted to communicate with someone who lived across the state, you sent a letter.  If it was urgent – and usually bad news – you sent a telegram.  But the point is, you waited.  You kept living your life, and when the news came, you reacted to it.  You didn’t constantly check the news, because there was nothing new to check.  Durham had morning and afternoon newspapers (the Durham Morning Herald and the Durham Afternoon Sun) when I was growing up, so you could at least get that level of timely update.

But now?  We have access to facts that were only previously found in books at the library, theses, or encyclopedias.  In fact, I have to wonder a few things about the unbelievable amount of content on the internet:

  • Where did these facts live BEFORE the Internet?
  • Who found them to put them on the Internet?
  • How could anybody have the time to do the research it took to create the content on the Internet?

I’ve written content as part of my job.  I know how long it takes.  I know how long it takes to write one of my “Slightly Bizarre History” blogs, and those are somewhat tongue-in-cheek.  How did the Internet happen?  Are there bijillions of people out there taking obscure facts from documents and books and translating them to some page somewhere in cyberspace – and getting paid for it?  Really?

I wonder if we were not more content before we knew everything real-time.  While coffee shops per se did not exist 60 years ago (I think Captain Starbuck was still whaling back then), diners did, with white formica counters and dime cups of java served in thick porcelain mugs.  Men (and sometimes women) wearing hats, came in for a blue-plate special.  Sometimes they talked.  When they did, did they talk about themselves?  About the little known news of the world?  About where they came from, where they were going?  I am sure they didn’t discuss the various functionality of their Royal typewriters or the advantage of using a Remington versus an Underwood.

Were people more personal back then, because “personal” was the primary focus of society – not business, not money, not getting ahead?  Or am I just living in a dream world of old movies?  Are we afraid of being personal now?  Or are we just so out of touch with what’s important that we’ve forgotten what being personal means?

This is the first in a short series of posts about our society, its high times, its low standards, and the general romp of life.  Such topics have been at the forefront of my frontal lobe – must be a sign of my own changing times.

July 2014
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