The Technological Invasion of the Body Snatchers
[Nyerges is the editor of Wilderness Way magazine, the author of How To Survive Anywhere and other books, and an outdoor field guide. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]
It was hot – beastly hot – so I went to a local coffee shop to drink iced tea. Maybe I would meet someone and engage them in good old-fashioned conversation. I purchased my iced tea from the new and shiny counter of the new and shiny coffee house. I sat in a comfortable chair and read my newspaper. I hadn’t paid attention to the other patrons in the coffee shop but I noted it was very quiet.
Looking up from my cool beverage, I saw that there was only one person per table, each wholly engaged in their laptop world. There was some light jazz playing in the room, but I seemed to be the only one tapping my foot to the music of Dave Brubeck. Everyone had wires in their ears extending to some hidden source. Everyone was tuned into something else, somewhere else, and no one was tuned into the here and now. A full room of lonely, separated, non-communicating people. No conversation would be possible.
I went outside to enjoy the cool evening breeze and maybe make conversation with fellow sojourners. One man sat alone outside but spoke in hushed tones as he waved his arms. No, not a crazy man, but a man who was elsewhere on his cell phone. The other person outside was a woman, also alone and yelling into the abyss of her phone. I would be making no conversation out here, I realized. Everyone was somewhere else.
I felt disoriented, like a stranger in strange land of techno-toys. I got in my vehicle and drove away.
I went to Trader Joes, did my shopping, and noted that nearly half the shoppers were not here now, but chatted away on their cell phones to people somewhere else. Some had wires extending from their ears.
One man entered with a silver device wrapped around his ear, Star Trek-like, and he was obviously elsewhere as he talked to unseen recipients. I hailed him with my hand, and inquired about the object.
"It’s my I-pod," he said enthusiastically. "I couldn’t live without it."
A friend told me a story about his cousin who plays on a sports team at a local college. The team takes a school bus to the other school, plays the game, and then all the students sit in their own private I-podded musical worlds as they bus home.
"Don’t you all talk?" the student was asked.
"We don’t do that," was the reply.
What a depressing world we’ve devolved into. I can recall bussing home from high school track meets, listening to "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" and all us boys sang along in comraderie, whether we lost or won. How have we descended to the point where it is regarded as better to reside in a safe little podded world.
It would be instructive for today’s over-teched youth to go watch the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and replace "pod" with "I-pod." We are all being podded, and without a fight.
During our recent blackout, I sat outside in the cool darkness of the evening with no cell phone, no lights, no TV, no telephone, no e-mail, no electronic gadget which would pod my mind and rob my time. It was a deep pleasure to be alone with myself, to think about life, and life’s important questions, with no chance for google or wickipedia to presume to know my inner answers.
Though I marvel at our technological advances, I cringe with sadness to realize what we have all lost.