Plugged and Unplugged

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

So I’m on the way to an early morning meeting. I have the radio on and there is a financial world report that has to do with the buzz about new electronic gizmos. One of them is about a new application for a smart phone. Evidently you can connect your phone with your baby com and watch and listen, connect with video and audio. And the telecommuting parent can coo into their phone and the sound pours out into the nursery, supposedly soothing any mournful child. How about that. It’s better than nothing I suppose.

By the time I arrive at the destination, a public building where my service club is meeting temporarily, I was greeted by someone who said they were reading the newspaper online and ran across the column about our new Bluegrass service in Rocheport. Congratulations and all that. You should meet my brother-in-law the mandolin player. Ok, maybe I should.

The club president stands up to lead us in the pledge of allegiance. Everyone rises to face the flag which is … nowhere. A borrowed space and no flag. What now? The president says, “Have no fear.” He pulls out his smart phone and accesses a virtual flag, and he holds up his 3″ x 3″ monitor high so everyone pretends they can see it and we begin. “I pledge allegiance…”

Bing, bang, boom. It’s the wired world. And it connects in some remarkable and helpful ways. And it is deficient in just as many. It does not provide a complete substitute for intimacy, or conversation face to face, or even physical symbols. It does a lot, but not nearly everything.

Because we don’t have enough tables to sit at to consume our catered breakfast, some of us have to sit in chairs, balancing our paper plates on our laps, like at a family reunion. I’m lucky because I can place my large cup of coffee on the seat of the chair next to me. In a moment of levity I grab the arm of the chair, tipping the cup so that it gushes out its entire contents onto the cloth-covered chair and then down onto the carpet. Napkins, please. It was a proud moment. My only consolation was that no one had it on video and was uploading it to YouTube. Or maybe that I wasn’t a pilot, splashing coffee over all the controls so that I needed to divert to the nearest airport to land the thing.

I’d just as soon spilled the coffee virtually, cleaned up with the stroke of my mouse. Or maybe not. At least it was real – wet, hot, black and embarrassing. What if we lost all those things?

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