Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kill Your Bluetooth

As I was researching in-flight entertainment for an article I'm about to write, I came across so many press releases and articles full of hope and excitement about WiFi in the air. It has made me physically ill.

I am glad that laptops and cell phones are useless at high altitude. I never use them much anyway, and people who do should welcome the break from work, and from close-range radiation. As one spirited commenter on an article about in-flight WiFi said, "There is enough cosmic radiation at those altitudes. I don't think it is worth the health risks." While I'm not so sure about the cosmic rays, I agree that WiFi in the sky is unhealthy.

"Boring ass clouds. Stop lookin' at me."

Do we not have enough technology creating walls between us and the real live humans aroudn us? Not to mention, walls between us and our natural surroundings.

Joggers refuse to move an inch without their iPods. Sometimes when I bike on the river trail I would like to say good morning, but the white strands of technology dangling from the ears of oncoming cyclists and runners keep me quiet. I get to enjoy the sounds of the woods and the river, and keep those sounds all to myself.

Bastards of all socioeconomic status sport their Bluetooth ear gear everywhere from the ball game to the piss trough to the Chucky Cheese. Sometimes their kids sprout ear devices too, as if it's a genetic disease.

"He'll grow into it."

Bluetooth would be a good accessory for the schizophrenic who would like to appear as if he is not talking to himself or to God, but to someone who is actualy inciting his anger. But on your standard issue human, an earbud is a big "Don't talk to me I am important" sign.

I see people who probably can't afford to make their car payment wearing them. But mostly it's middle class douchebags. A douchebag is a man who thinks he is very special, but he is really just a jerk. He looks like this:

Stab your fork in his ear baby. Right in his ear.

The corporate honchos who can afford their cars and who wear every piece of gear they can come by (laptop bag over shoulder, Bluetooth in ear, Blackberry holster on hip) irk me just as much as the poseurs. Especially in airports. Especially when you can tell they are going on vacation and not on business.

Shouldn't a powerful man also be free? Powerful people today enslave themselves to technology, willingly shackling themselves into the shiny manacles of telecommunication, and for what? They can't really care about the office when they're boarding a plane to Disneyworld. Maybe it's a look they're going for, or a front for something. They don't really need WiFi on the goddamned plane. I think they say they need it because everyone expects that.

Observing these men at airports, writing in my little journal, I feel that I am the one who is truly free. Mostly powerless in a big world, but free, at the very least. And I will probably outlive the lot of them. Leatherbound journals are not known to give off high levels of radiation. Here is how I feel when I write in my journal:

Sometimes people call airplanes birds. A recent survey showed that people overwhelmingly prefer to spend their time in birds looking out the window. Of those surveyed, 86% occupied most of their time just staring at the planet from their peculiar point of perspective. Shining lakes that change color, mist-shrouded mountains with no beginning or end, discs of stormy clouds spewing lightening from both ends, and the repetition of long desert roads leading to curious flag lots spotted with scrubby dots are enough to capture their imagination for hours on end. Even on flights over open ocean, the window still won out.

But the airline futurists still predict success for sky-fly-wi-fi: "The public unquestionably wants Internet connectivity, even if that means removing one of the last places where one can escape from work." I think the public thinks they are supposed to want it. So they do. Consumer culture is seeping into every crack it can find. Now that it's filled the planet, it's finally bleeding out into space.

I am going on my first trip to an island next week, on a group backpacking trip. It will also be my first flight over water, not counting a short trip over Lake Superior. (I woke up and thought the plane had flown off the end of the Earth. It's a big friggin' lake.) I plan on looking out the window, reading (no more Vonnegut...for now), and talking to people. I hope I see a cruise ship in the water. That would look really strange from the sky. I bet we can see reefs when we land. I hope they look like this:

I can't wait to remove myself from this culture, from technology, and particularly from the internet. My technology manacles aren't very heavy. They could be easily smashed with a small coconut. As for the Bluetooth men on their way to Kauai, I hope they stay in Lihue, out of my sight and away from my coconut.

1 comment:

  1. ah, escape from technology. I too, recently enjoyed one. For three blessed days I didn't even have my cell phone with me. No tv, no computer. Just the radio, for those quiet times in dock and the sound of the water the rest of the time. And you know what? I didn't miss the damn thing. When I came home after a week it took me three more days before I finally gave it up and plugged my laptop back in.
    This last trip also marked the first time I didn't spend my entire cross-country flight looking out the window. I had worked the day before, and I got up early every day of my vacation, so I slept most of it. I woke up in time to see the Rio Grande on the way west, and Kansas and eastward coming home. Somehow going both ways I managed to miss the largest state in the lower 48! I simply cannot conceive of how people can sit on an airplane and not look out the windows. Like your friend in the TSA, it makes me feel 'expanded.' I can absorb places like Denver, Colorado, even though I've never set foot on the ground there. Flying over the Rio Grande was perhaps the most inspiring thing I've done lately.
    Let us all just turn off our cell phones once in a while and go 'expand'.


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