neljapäev, juuli 10, 2008

zombies of the living dead

Back in San Francisco the other day, I decided to ditch my hotel room for the hotel lobby to get some work done. I stayed in a French-owned hotel where music by Django Reinhardt and Edith Piaf played in the background, and my articles seemed to rip free from my fingertips like one of Django's many amazing guitar solos.

I noticed in the adjacent room that people were asking about Internet connectivity. I bought a $5 24-hour pass to use a city wireless service, but there was apparently some free wireless in the lobby that wasn't working. At least three people inquired with great urgency at the front desk about the lack of an Internet connection. One older woman in particular seemed extremely agitated.

This was occurring at about 8 am in the morning, and every Internet cafe that was recommended to her by the concierge would not open until 10. And so she paced, and checked again, and then, out of the corner of her eye, saw me seated in front of my very functional laptop, clicking away. She strode over to me, her hands clutched out front in nervous anticipation.


"Are you connected to the Internet?" she asked giddily.

"Yeah, I bought the city wireless pass. It's about $5," I said.


She left for some time and then returned to the door to the lobby. Hovering around the door, I could sense the agitation in her awkward, writhing body language. You see, I had access to the yummy, mind-tickling Internet and she didn't. She would have to settle for reading the latest issue of Le Point.

She finally approached me with some hesitancy. "Do you mind if I ... use your laptop?" she asked, hoping, praying that I would say yes. I was on deadline. My superiors were awaiting my work. There was simply no way that I was going to let this Internet addict anywhere near my computer. Sure, she'd pledge to just check her e-mail "for five minutes," but that five minutes could stretch to several hours. She was a junky and I had work to do. I declined her request.

She threw her arms up in cartoonish abandon, as if to say "drats" or "blast it all to hell." And I derived a sick pleasure from helping her go cold turkey, at least until the hotel wireless went back up or the nearest Internet cafe opened its doors. It is indeed sick because there used to be no Internet and thus there used to be no Internet addiction. Back then, people had to settle for more mundane addictions like alcohol or gambling. Today, though, nearly everyone is a junky of this harmless virtual world sur Internet.

It's not that I am not guilty myself. I do enjoy the days, though, when life and travel keep me off line and back online in the "real world." What is sort of odd to me is that to the generation directly beneath mine, for whom e-mail addresses and puberty coincided, there is no separation between online and offline. As someone only a few years my junior once confided in me, "I cannot live without the Internet; it's like another part of my brain." That sounds a bit frightening. The Internet is a tool; not a part of my brain. I am a human being; not a cyborg.

My wife's younger brother actually went through a severe case of Internet addiction about half a year back. It's normal these days that younger people spend a significant chunk of their time online. But he was online all the time. I even drove somewhere with him once and he was using his laptop in the car, periodically accessing local free wireless. It got to the point that we were actually worried about the dude. His life was turning into some kind of Trainspotting minus heroin plus YouTube.

Fortunately, he has kicked the habit to some extent, and the last time he came over, he spent most of his time with us unconnected. I should spend less time online too, which I guess means less blog posts. But, as my seventh grade English teacher used to say, it's about quality, not quantity. Know what I mean?

10 kommentaari:

Indrek ütles ...

Internet is actually good for practicing language skills.

Vlogging on YouTube (in a foreign language) is a good excuse to record yourself talking.

At first it would be awkward, but after getting used to it, it would really help on improving the accent (it is easier to make corrections if you have heard yourself on a third person perspective).

Of course it is something that can develop into an addiction...

Doris ütles ...

I think I used to have a mild case of internet addiction (mild because I've always had a heavy reading-addiction and I prefer real pages to the screen) back when I wasn't working. But now I spend at least 8 hours a day at the computer, using browsing as a way to give my brain some time to think through this or that formula into my newest excel spreadsheet. So when I get home I usually don't even want to LOOK at the computer. Even when it's turned off. Which is actually rather bad for my friends and family, all far away from me... and now I'll get back to work =(P5+I5)/M5 or some such

Mart ütles ...

Maybe the woman was waiting for an important mail? I can't imagine anyone that desperate.

Giustino ütles ...

I think she would have told me if it was important. But, you are right, perhaps her eccentricity got in the way of business.

Kristopher ütles ...

I wouldn't be surprised if SF had a law requiring you to give homeless people access to your Internet, let alone strangers at French-owned hotels. She was probably French and just discovering the Internet after years of Minitel.

Interesting -- I just logged in today after about 8 days away from computer. One, my eyesight is a lot sharper (in fact I think I will cut out screen-staring before getting my US driver's license renewed this fall, since it makes the difference between 20/20 and 20/30 vision for me). The feel of the keyboard seemed strange and the hand on the touchpad didn't seem like mine for an instant. All signs, in my opinion, that I have been working certain parts of my brain too intensely, that evolution didn't equip me to type tens of thousands of keystrokes each month.

Finally, I do not have an Internet problem. It's just certain websites I'm addicted to.

Hirnu-Hrnx! ütles ...

Had she been a big buxom bombshell she'd still be using your computer, G.

You, bad you. Discriminator. How coudl you?

Hirnu-Hrnx! ütles ...

Doris, what's your favorite Excel book?

Jim Hass ütles ...

great story justin. Since the many days since your last post has had me "itching" several times a day. I thank the lord that you gave us freeloaders a hit so that we could "get well" for a bit. Really, all that sunlight this month has really cut Baltic English word smuggling leaving us definitely itchy-scratchy

Colm ütles ...

Up until June this year I was a classic example of an internet junkie. My laptop and wireless was turned on first thing in the morning and they stayed on all day everyday right up until the wee hours of the morning. I wrote blogposts, watched vids on YT, surfed, visited BBs, used MSNM, uploaded pics to Flickr, sent emails, CHECKED MY EMAIL EVERY 2 MINUTES......etc.

Then I took a break from online and I feel wonderful. I can now go for days without any online-ness which is a miracle. I am back to reading books, spending time with the girlfriend, going for walks, studying linguistics in my room with claming music on rather than glued to a screen talking to 5 people at once on MSNM.

Of course people are asking where I have dissapeared too, I'm not writing posts, I'm leaving emails in my inbox unreplied to for days and I've been on MSNM for 30 minutes in the whole last 30 days.

And the great thing is that I couldn't give a toss.

I'm in the real world now...

Sharon ütles ...

I'm with Mart, actually. An "older woman" is less likely to be a sad, sorry addict as someone who is expecting an important message and has no idea how else to get it if the Internet is unavailable.

Depending on her background, she probably had to muster up a hell of a lot of courage to ask a complete stranger for the help she needed. Just asking for the use of the lap-top was probably as much as she could psych herself up for. Explaining why might have been a bit too much.

Then again, I'm a librarian. I get "older women" and "older men" coming to me all the time, desperate for someone to help them get important information out of cyberspace and into their hands.

Perhaps I'm just projecting something that happens in my work all the time onto your lobby experience.