Friday, December 26, 2008

Too Switched On?

The other night I was heading north to a duck hunt at Kern NWR. It was dark, having just left a fine supper of Carnitas at the Los Pinos restaurant at the top of the Vine (Grapevine) as some know it on I-5, north of Los Angeles. As each vehicle passed me I began to notice the blinking displays from laptops, GPS units, cellphones, Gameboys etc. I've always been a gadget freak and nerd but I began to wonder just how far we've become addicted to electronics. Many of the cars whizzing past had several people using electronic devices in them.

RING!!! RING!!! RING!!!! Hold on a sec, gotta answer this call.

I can remember a time when you loaded up the truck for a vacation to get away from the ringing phones and never ending questions from work. When you arrived at the rustic cabin or campsite there was no phone to answer, no mail, nothing. It was you and the beautiful woods with no annoying distractions.

On the other hand, a cellphone is good insurance to have if you become stranded or have an emergency of some sort. Most of these folks were traveling for the Christmas holiday. The I-5 can be a boring haul with the Tule Fog causing California's deadliest pileups.

Where is the line for too much electronic gadgetry?

I know some families who can't go anywhere unless little Johnny has his Gameboy, it keeps junior occupied and quiet many parents tell me. The world Johnny has never seen is screaming by and his head is buried in the toy. Part of traveling to me as a kid was seeing the sights, the wonder and awe of seeing new places and new things. Is the next generation missing out in their enlightenment or is this the new world order? Do I need to assimilate or can we bend the folks who are constantly wired and tuned in, off?

BEEP!!! BEEP!!! BEEP!!! Be right with you, gotta answer this page.

I see folks everyday walking around with I-Pods in their ears or yapping on a cellphone as they blindly negotiate busy intersections or walkways. Hearing is one sense I want turned on when big buses and machinery are buzzing by me just feet away. I wonder how many have been squished when they didn't hear the yell from someone to "Look out!!". Some states like CA here are passing laws prohibiting the use of cellphones while driving to try and prevent accidents from inattentive drivers. Some of the cellphone ring tones are flat out annoying, especially in a movie or restaurant. One goof had a screaming elephant in his cellphone the had everyone in the local cafe jumping up and looking for cover, me included. It was that loud.

That begs the question. Is all this electronic bombardment ruining our situational awareness as outdoorsmen? If we don't hear that Towhee singing how would we ever know what one sounds like? If all we hear is music and phone conversations as we walk around outside we will never enjoy the funny chatter of a red-headed woodpecker scolding a squirrel for daring to invade his tree.

RING!!!! RING!!! RING!!! Excuse me, gotta answer this call, BRB.


NorCal Cazadora said...

I think my favorite is the DVD player in the car - yet another thing to prevent the little kiddies from seeing what country they live in.

But a close second is the ipod that runners wear. I used to run along the Mississippi River, and occasionally I'd see another woman runner with one of those things jammed in her ears. When I'd pass her, she'd jump out of her skin, having had no idea that another human was coming up behind her. And I'd think to myself, "If I were a rapist, you'd already be tossed in the bushes there." How stupid it is, to cut off our senses.

Phillip said...

Tune in, turn off... or some variation thereof.

Good stuff, Jesse, and I think about a lot of it every time I hit the road or go to the city. How much is too much?

I'm not real used to "the city life", and even after living here for almost 13 years it still gets me how much the residents have isolated themselves, not just from nature but from any other human contact. From avoiding eye contact to ignoring a polite greeting, people build this insulating wall around themselves.

But now, with the electronic mania, that wall has gone from defensively insular to aggressively invasive! People think nothing of holding entire telephone conversations in public restrooms, walking through crowds playing video games without ever looking up to see who they're running into, and talking and texting while driving down the highway at breakneck speeds! It's like no one else exists except for them, and honestly, I find it a little scary and very sad.

I like my gadgets. I have a cellphone that I use pretty much in place of my home phone now, and I carry a GPS to mark a hunting spot or to find the shortest way back to the truck. My computer travels the country with me, and enables me to work wherever I go... it's a freedom and a bondage at the same time, I guess.

But it's a good question... where DO we draw the line?