Here’s a little reminiscence I wrote in the aftermath of the Halloween snowstorm three years ago–about technology and what it does to us as humans.
November 2, 2011. Finally the storm was over, and the lights came on in some Easthampton businesses. I was sitting in Shelburne Falls Coffee with a large hazelnut, savoring the ecstasy of my first hot drink in days and the soothing sound of voices murmuring and orders being placed, as other locals slowly found their way to electricity heaven.
The other sound I slowly became aware of was the soft, ambient tapping of computer keys. Everywhere around me, people were engrossed in catching up on their email, reading their Facebook pages and working on their first assignments of the day, their Everything Bagels with Cream Cheese slowly languishing untouched beside them. The whispered conversation between an older couple and the young folks sitting at the table next to them was not, “What a horrible experience we just went through with that storm—how are you doing with it?” but rather a tentative, “Are you using the WiFi here to do that? Because in Southampton, our cable service is still down….”
I have to admit, I would have liked to have had my Internet service back, and I kind of wished I had brought my virus-ridden laptop there, if only to read my Outlook calendar to make sure I wasn’t missing an appointment… but it just wasn’t my priority at that moment. I needed food, caffeine, physical warmth. And I wanted good old-fashioned overly loud conversations among complete strangers, the conversations that help us release pent-up anxiety and cope with the solutions to a crisis we had just all gone through together. Something like, “I cooked horrible chili on my gas grill for three days—what did you do?” or “I’m disgusting—the first shower is going to feel great!” or “Talk to Harry down the street—he’s good for hauling away those big tree limbs in your backyard.”
Perhaps we were all still shell-shocked, and quiet interaction with machines (and the solutions needed to gain that interaction) was the only thing most of us were capable of handling at that point in time. And the conversations may well have been taking place, but they did so online and did not provide ease to the rest of us.
Jean and I got home, and our electricity had come on in the intervening time. What was the first thing I did? Go to my computer, of course, and try to boot it, feeling a sense of desperation when the four little lights on the left did not appear on my Cisco modem.
©2012, 2014 Fran Fahey