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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Serve No Useful Purpose

The server was down at work the other day; and since both our computers and our phones are intertwined in some black-magicked Information Technology-fashion (I don’t want to get too technical here) there was a substantial lull in my day. It got me thinking…

When I first started working, right after the first World War – the War to End All Wars, we called it – the office was a markedly different place than it is today. Copies were made by the monks kept in the back room, communications were made by carrier pigeon (they’re extinct now, you know), and you were allowed to smoke at your desk. It’s true! You were also allowed to smoke in theaters, on airplanes, in bars and restaurants, in hospitals, in court – in other words, everywhere. I have pictures of aunts holding newborns with cigarettes dangling from their lips.

But I digress.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of progress. Big fan of portable music, of mobile phones, of movies you can buy and watch whenever you like. Why, you used to have to wait until Thanksgiving to see the Wizard of Oz! Now you can see it any time you like and as many times as you like.

But when that stuff stops working, that’s when you notice just how much you’ve relied on it – and how little you really know about how it works.

The TV’s not working – NOW what do I do? I pushed the button on the remote – hard – but it still doesn’t work. What should I do? Should I push it again?

I dropped my cell phone in the toilet and lost every phone number I had. Collecting all those numbers again? That’ll take forever. Would it be wrong to just get all new friends?

The server’s down at work and there’s nothing I can do that doesn’t require my accessing something via computer – and that’s when I ask myself: why aren’t I doing something real, like throwing pots or breeding dogs?

My clothes come from stores, my meat comes on Styrofoam wrapped in plastic, and the information I, an end-user, need to be productive is housed mysteriously in a black box.

How did I let this get so out of control?

But what can I do? I’m a cog. A small, undistinguished cog in a large, distinguished machine.

My first thought: rebel. I must rebel.

I’ve got to fight the power. But how?

Going forward, I will continue to buy my clothes in stores; but I will do all my own alterations. I’ve stapled fallen hems before, and by God, I can do it again.

Going forward, I will continue to buy my meat from places where it comes in Styrofoam and wrapped in plastic, primarily because I live in the city and don’t know anyone who raises their own meat and rabbits and city raccoons are harder to catch than you’d think…

Going forward, I will continue to go to my job, where I will continue to work, on a computer, as I always have, powerless when it stops working…

Working? Wait a minute. That’s it. I’m going at this all wrong! Back to the land! That’s what I need to do. Like my forefathers, I’ll eke out an existence by the sweat of my brow. I’ll sell the house, buy a couple hundred acres on a river, get some cows and some goats, do my own butchering, make my own butter, can my own vegetables. Subsistence farming, man. That’s where it’s at.

Yeah. No. Not gonna happen. My rebelling sucks.

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