|Adventures in the Big Empty
by Geek Jane
Jane Thinks Metaphorically, or, Wired Vacations
I'm feeling a little boxed in lately, perhaps long hours tapping away at my job while I know the work I do isn't really worthwhile has something to do with it. Back in May I went on vacation, and there were some things I saw during my trip that got me to thinking.
I've noticed a disturbing trend. There are an increasing amount of Geek-related comforts available in places where relaxation and "getting away from it all" is supposed to be the goal. I'm talking about vacations. For every minute of vacation time, there is a jack or a hookup to accommodate.
On airplanes, there are electrical outlets that one can plug their trusty laptop into. There are telephones that can be used to hook into the Internet or to make that really important call that just can't wait.
Those Airfones, as they're called, they flash attractive little messages such as: "Why wait? Make that call!" "You can: Check Messages - Send Email - Keep In Touch". Ah, the siren song of convenience and modernity. Well, sure you can call, for $1.50 a minute - I read up in the airline magazine about the charges for those phones - checking in with the kids to make sure they don't need you to pick up milk and dog biscuits on the way home SOUNDS Like a great idea, but it'll cost you. I have never, ever seen anyone use those phones. Even touching them you can feel the energy being sucked out of your body through your fingers, just like the money ebbs from your credit card account when you pluck it from its cradle.
Resist, you must...JUST SAY NO to Airfone!
I thought it was fancy enough when bus services got little televisions so they could show movies during the trip, but now you can set up your own home office right from your coach seat while flying the friendly skies.
Airports have cafes with terminals set right into the tables - with the swipe of a credit card the Internet is at your fingertips, <sarcasm> so you can catch that essential email or newsgroup message that might just change your life before you get on the plane. </sarcasm>
Motels, hotels, and especially resorts - all have phone jacks for Internet hookups, some enterprising places even have WebTV access at an hourly rate. I'll bet the next thing will be cable modem access, all paid by the minute, of course - by the time I write this, it'll likely already be implemented. Anything and everything to make your stay that much closer to the place you left.
You would think that stressed vacationers would stay away from these modern trappings, after all, they're on vacation, right? Wrong. All too often I see people on the beach, in the park, in restaurants, even, digital pager clipped to a belt holding up khaki shorts, cell phone hooked to the laptop, eyes behind sunglasses staring at the screen and doing whatever extremely important thing it is that simply can't wait while sipping frozn drinks with little umbrellas on top. People hooked in 24 hours a day. It's gotten to the point that there's no other way anyone is used to being.
I don't own a pager, or a cell phone. I screen most of my calls at home and don't even have call waiting. I don't want to be that accessible - carrying those electronic shackles only results in having No Private Life. To think that no matter where you are or what you're doing, you could be summoned from thousands of miles away by a beep or a ring. No, thank you.
Why can't so many people get along without their trappings? It seems like, in this continually modernized world, fewer and fewer people can just relax any more. My mother can't leave the house without checking her newsgroups and playing her daily word games because if she misses a day, someone might score higher than her. People everywhere complain about how much work bogs them down, how their days are hectic and they rush around without cease, yet when they go away to have time to themselves they bring everything with them. It's like a drug, a dependence on technology.
When I go on vacation, I go somewhere that doesn't have cable, if I can find it, no phone. If there is a phone I turn the ringer off, I don't give out the number except to my mom for emergencies. She knows that when I'm away, I'm away and that's that. I don't bring a laptop to "catch up on a little work." I don't find any of those places to log in to check my email. My digital life takes a vacation when I do.
I think everyone who obsessively checks their email three times a day and can't miss a 24-hour period without visiting one Web site or another, or responding to their pager, should take all of their devices and lock them in a closet. Start easy, lock them away just for a day. Take that day and go to the park. Eat lunch at an outdoor cafe. Take a leisurely walk past a body of water or through someplace green. Go window shopping. Do not wear a watch. Breathe the air. Consider it Tech Rehab, if you will.
I fear we're forgetting where we come from. Technology is a wonder, a saving grace, an amazing journey, but technology is also a prison we are building for ourselves. While discovering whole new worlds we alienate the one we already have, and it is more beautiful and wonderful than any cold, plastic device.
Be well, fellow Geeks. Get outside and enjoy the summer while it's here, you can talk to your newsgroup buddies tomorrow.
Some links to make you think:
Yosemite National Park, California
Crooked River Ranch, Oregon
Mount Nebo, West Virginia
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Assorted Rivers, Maine
(Doesn't Gil look like a really nice guy?)
Peace, love, and T-connections for all,
Tell a friend about Geek Jane!
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