Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Fortress of Solitude

My peculiar situation is that I get my Internet service from a satellite whose signal winds it way through Charlotte, North Carolina.  On most days, that isn't a problem.  However, with Hurricane Sandy (a boyishly lame name for a storm) bearing down on us, that signal has been silenced.  As a first resort, I am sitting in the Gloucester County Library with my work laptop getting caught up on my month-end bills, e-mails and miscellaneous web crawling that somehow seems necessary.

I went to college as an adult, graduating in 2006.  It was necessary for me to leave the house in order to get anything serious accomplished.  Pending household chores, a whining cat, the blare of the TV and other home-bound distractions were left behind and my mind could focus on the task at hand.  Usually, it was a paper I had to write or some mathematically challenging homework.

To write my papers, I used antiquated devices known as a pen and paper.  I would feverishly write every idea that came into my head a paragraph at a time.  Order was established with arrows and those backward P marks that signaled a new paragraph.  Archaeologists could uncover them in a hundred years and make no sense out of them, but to me it meant that I completed a paper and would return home to put it on the necessary device to submit to my professor, who would undoubtedly enjoy reading it to the extent that I imagined him carrying it around and re-reading it so that he could absorb every minute detail before granting me the highest possible grade.

I had not been back to the library before today.  Since I cannot update this thing or do any other modern tasks with a pen and paper, here I sit with the keyboard clicking and those same thoughts whirring through my head of how mind-clearing it is to escape my home and sit in relative silence.

We don't appreciate silence.  We roam around with phones on our ear, headphones on them in order to either distract us from the outside world or shield us from it. In many ways, we have become less social.  Texting has replaced a phone call, e-mail has replaced a hand-written letter and our personal space is occupied by some device.  We are isolated by technology.

Before I had a cell phone, I knew everyone's phone number.  Now, I couldn't tell you any of them.  I don't know your street address either. It's a point and click world.  How many phone numbers do you know?

With the latest Storm of the Century approaching, the loss of a lot of that technology leaves us grasping at straws.  We live in a world where things are immediately known to us and accessible.  Newspapers no longer report real news.  We have already learned that on some social media site or from an Internet news page.  Most of the mystery has been taken from our lives, and in some ways, our lives are worse for it.

Things that are already inconveniences are now invading our daily routine to the point that the level of anxiety over losing cell service or not having Internet access leaves us feeling empty.  But I wonder if we weren't already empty, and the loss of these modern conveniences is really a modern inconvenience?

The storm isn't here yet, and already my angst over it has started.


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