Disconnected

A Fool In NH Column Heading

Last week I gave some ideas in using famous movie quotes to help new transplants, otherwise known as Flatlanders, in adjusting to their first winters here.

I had no idea at the time what was about to befall us that Tuesday. If I had known in advance about the coming snowstorm I would have included another famous movie line once shouted by Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire: “STELLA! STELLA!”
Of course, this wouldn’t have helped in adjusting to the storm, but it would have provided some good old fashioned primal scream therapy to at least help get through it.
My household was fortunate enough in not having to endure a prolonged power outage like so many others; in fact, we didn’t have any at all. Though we did lose our TV and Internet for about a day. If I had been given a choice before the storm of which I would rather endure, no lights and heat for three or four days or longer, or no TV or Internet, the choice would have been simple.
Still, as some suffered through the former, those who only had to endure the latter still didn’t know enough to count their blessings. Finding my way online using just my cell phone (how advanced and yet primitive, depending on your age) I kept track of the progress, or lack thereof, by the cable company in getting life returned to normal – as far as normal is nowadays.
I got the opportunity to read the various comments by others, most sitting on comfortable couches in their lit and heated homes, moaning and groaning about the cable workers who weren’t working fast enough through downed trees and power lines, howling and dangerous winds and subhuman freezing conditions in getting them back on Facebook and Netflix fast enough.
These folks were, obviously, connected to the Internet, but not in the way they would like. The inconvenience was apparently unbearable.
In all fairness, there were some businesses without Internet who depended on it to operate, so their concerns were real. In reading other comments, it became clear that the supposedly advanced civilization we are living in is basically doomed if a few satellites and power grids go down.
One of the commenters on the site was complaining about the fact that he had just started his vacation and he had planned spending it playing some kind of online video game. What was he going to do now?
Another complained that he wouldn’t be able to watch the Bruins game and might even lose sleep over this.
Maybe the one that got me to thinking the most about all of this was one girl who seemed beside herself because without Internet connection she would never be able to finish her homework. What now??
This last comment got me to thinking about an incident that happened about twenty-five years ago, before the Internet was a big deal. Still, it stuck in my mind ever since as a clue to where things are today.
I was working as a manager at a local restaurant and one of the weekend breakfast waitresses, a young high school girl, was waiting behind a couple of other waitresses to use the adding machine. She was bit agitated as she waited and I asked her what was wrong.
“I forgot to give a table their senior citizen ten percent discount and they are in a rush,” she said.
“Can’t you just figure it out yourself?” I asked.
She looked at me as if I had three heads.
“I have no idea how to do that,” she said.
It was then that the adding machine became available and she hurriedly tapped in the numbers to figure out the ten percent.
I had an inkling then and there that technology, as great as it was in some forms, was taking away a lot of basic skills.
Today, it has become a lot more complicated than simple math; it has become for so many a minute to minute way of life, every bit of information you could need only a click away.
When it goes away, for even a few hours, some folks don’t know what to do. Maybe go to the library and open a dusty old research volume, play actual chess face to face, maybe hear the game on the radio.
The horror! The horror!
Don’t get me wrong. I depend on technology myself for business as well as quick answers to questions and when it is slow or down for a minute I get upset: “Stupid Internet” I cry.
Still, if it’s suddenly not around for a couple of days I can easily adjust.
I guess I’m just getting old and that’s fine with me.